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Passive House Project: Deep Performance Dwelling

80% cut in energy demand marks a winning design

By Ben Wareing

The Deep Performance Dwelling [DPD] is a model of sustainable and affordable urban living designed and built by TeamMTL – a collaboration between McGill and Concordia Universities with several private and public-sector partners. Students and faculty of Architecture, Engineering, Design and Computation Arts, and Management, collaborated for two-and-a-half years on this extraordinary endeavor. As a fully integrated, system-built, Passive House construction, the DPD radically addresses the climatic, socio-cultural, and affordable housing context of Montreal and beyond

Over half of the world’s population now live in cities and this trend is projected to increase to 80% by 2050. Cities are the stage upon which our collective future finds full expression as simultaneously the main site of contestation and opportunity to create alternative and sustainable ways of living. The creation and cultivation of a dense, efficient, affordable, and vibrant urban milieu is of critical importance. “Deep-performance” implies an advanced architecture that embodies qualitative and quantitative notions of performance, asserting culture as foundational to the social, environmental, economic, and technological.

The DPD combines the efficiency, density, and flexibility of the Montreal row house with the functionality and cultural significance of the Fond de cour backyard house. The three-dimensional architectural promenade with varying degrees of nested public to private spaces further reflects these cultural values. The central courtyards of each home are open on either side, allowing for shared space between residents in a row house scenario. The street entrances are closely aligned, and a shared backstreet and accessible entrance porch promotes sociability and chance encounter, fostering a cohesive community. 

The flexible configuration reflected in its plan addresses the social dynamics and variety of the contemporary family. The need for flexibility and adaptability over time for live-work-play, inter-generational, and sharing economy scenarios is a primary motivation for the architecture of the DPD, reflected in the two autonomous volumes separated by the core mechanical room on the first floor and second level courtyard above.

The envelope is composed of mineral wool batt insulation, ZIP sheathing as the air and vapour barrier, and an exterior smart membrane that is airtight and water resistant but vapour open, providing for superior hygrothermal performance. A layered structure of engineered wood mitigates thermal bridging and high-performance doors and windows allow for controlled solar gain, daylighting, and natural ventilation while maintaining the integrity of the envelope. A highly-efficient Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) system with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter continually distributes clean, fresh air throughout the house, ensuring a comfortable and healthy indoor environment. The form and orientation of the building is carefully designed for thermal performance and to minimize exposed surface area, with sheltered exterior environments adding depth and nuance.

Fenster Tek was proud to have been chosen by the Deep Performance Dwelling group as the supplier of the Larch series of Fusionline Gaulhofer windows and door systems from Austria.

ZIP System® sheathing and tape for building enclosures offers structural durability combined with moisture and air protection, in an easy-to-install system.

The interior is partly finished with Canadian hardwood plywood.

Jeld-Wen manufactured the interior doors and the glazed door.

Controls were provided by Johnson Controls.

Project Credits


Michael Jemtrud – Faculty Project Lead

Bruno Lee – Faculty Engineering Lead

Michael Montanaro – Faculty Media Lead

Student Leads:

Ben Wareing – Architecture Lead

Alex Gareau – Project Manager

Rémi Dumoulin – Engineering Lead

Sophie Jemtrud – Communications Lead

Jiawei Lin – Market Appeal Lead

Nima Navab – Media Lead

Thierry Syriani – Interior Lead

Nick Brown – Construction Lead

Photos – Images courtesy of TeamMTL