Dedicated to sustainable,
high performance building

Passive Narrow House

Compact house lets nature do the work

Located in a jungle of hip roofs, white vinyl, and pink stucco in East Vancouver, the Passive Narrow House makes green home ownership more affordable through careful planning, use of simple forms, and a combination of inexpensive yet durable materials that reduce maintenance costs. The passive strategies for lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilating run on free solar energy, and the house has the ability to provide rental income of varying amounts based on the family’s changing needs.

By Allison Holden-Pope


The 1,700 sq. ft. three bedroom home has a roof-top penthouse and garden, and an additional 900 sq. ft. of flex basement suite with two additional bedrooms.

Creating a compact home on a small lot in an urban location is a great way to create density, however, it often results in less than desirable outdoor spaces with overlooking neighbours on all sides. The solution? We put the yard on the roof – 664 sq.ft. of private outdoor living space with solar access and unexpected views. The green roof also reduces storm water run off, and the heat island effect.

The house minimizes energy consumption with a high-performance envelope, including thermally-insulated fiberglass windows with argon fill and low-e coatings as well as R46 roofs in addition to the insulating planted roof on top.

Concrete block [CMU] walls, three storeys in height and exposed to south-facing windows, are used as affordable thermal massing inside the insulated envelope. The charcoal-coloured blocks act as both heat sinks and sources as needed, by season.

In warm months : roof overhangs shade the south-facing glazing, fresh cool air is circulated through the house via the stack effect, thermal mass walls cool the house by absorbing ambient heat and regulate the temperature by releasing the heat back as the house cools at night.
In cold months: south-facing glazing directs low-angle sunlight direct to the thermal block walls which collect heat and distribute it throughout day and night.


  • Architect One SEED Architecture + Interiors Inc.
  • General Contractor Hartford Construction Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect Aloe Designs
  • Structural and Geotech Engineer Sharat Chande
  • Envelope Engineer Chester Machniewski
  • Photos Allison Holden-Pope


  • Wood frame and engineered wood construction with Basalite CMU block with charcoal grey integral colouring oxide additive, minimum 20% recycled content, structural interior wall and thermal mass
  • Fiberglass windows and doors that are recyclable, energy efficient, argon filled, low-E coated
  • Roxul Comfortbatt mineral wood batt insulation in roof and walls, min. 40% recycled content, Greenguard low-VOC certified, CFC and HCFC free, and EcoBay CC Can closed-cell spray insulation by Bayer
  • Claddings are  fiber cement siding with EasyTrim aluminum reveals, corrugated pre-finished steel, western red cedar channel siding finished with CBR’s Broda Protektor stain
  • Fabric-reinforced monolithic rubber roof membrane [1/4” thick] below vegetated roof assembly; Liveroof Standard 4” self-draining modular green roof trays
  • Furnace operates with heat recovery ventilator
  • Bamboo and porcelain tile flooring with Schluter Systems DITRA mat and Kerdi membrane for interior tiled areas
  • “No-added” formaldehyde millwork products used