Left: Refuge PC, Small cabin, Québec; Right: Guillaume Fafard, Founder, QUINZHEE ARCHITECTURE

Meet Guillaume Fafard, the easy-going and effervescent Founder of Quinzhee Architecture, located in the Saint-Saveur district in Quebec City, Quebec. Quinzhee’s practice is built upon their care for the environment, and designing homes based on Passive House principles was a natural fit, aligning with the core values of the firm.

So when COVID-19 hit, like many, Guillaume found he had a bit more time on his hands, and decided to pursue his Certified Passive House Designer/Consultant Certification. He has always instilled Passive House principles in his projects, and remembered wanting to first pursue the designation about 15 years ago when still at school and one of his teachers told him that the Passive House Institute standard was the ‘best and highest’ standard. “I’m competitive so it was always my goal to be certified!” he laughed.

What initially drew Guillaume to Passive House projects? “I’m aware the planet is not at its best. It’s my way of acting. If I can build better and reduce energy consumption in our buildings, I am doing my part.” Are architects a catalyst to move the market to build more sustainably? “With owners and contractors – you need to talk dollars first. You need to make it interesting for them to build better earlier. Discuss the return on investment and the lower operational costs. With homeowners it’s a much different conversation. You tell them they are going to have a much better house – it’ll be more comfortable, and the quality of air is better.”

Guillaume is currently working on a project, ‘Refuge PC’. It’s a small cabin located near Armagh in the Bellechasse region of Québec. The home faces south and southwest, with an incredible view of a lake facing west. The project is targeting Passive House Low Energy certification with features including a double stud wall, reduction in thermal bridging, triple glazed windows, and mini-split. The biggest challenge in this project was its size – so small that the team had to scale the house to reach Low Energy Building requirements by increasing its TFA. The home is going through the preliminary planning stage and is slated to begin construction in Spring 2022.

How is the market for Passive House projects in Quebec? “It’s not booming yet – but it’s going to be booming. Everyone has a part. A few of the banks in Quebec are providing incentives to lend money at lower interest rates if you build better.” At the municipal level, Guillaume thinks more can be done. “In two of our sustainable districts they are building with concrete and metal studs. People are still very much car-oriented. We’d love to see the building code change, with the same intensity as the BC Step Code. If that were to happen, I’d open up the champagne and be really happy.”

“Industry will only adapt if there is incentive to do it. Change is slow. If government does more, industry would follow. It’s great timing – lots of money is invested in construction and interest rates are good. The best energy you save is the energy you don’t use.”