SoLo House

Location: Pemberton, British Columbia
Building Type: Single Family Residential
Project Phase: Complete
Certification Type: PHI Low-Energy Building
Year of Construction: 2020
Gross Floor Area (m2): 300
PHPP Verification:
Certified Passive House

PHI Low-Energy Building

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Project Description

Solo is intended to demonstrate an approach to building a future alpine settlement in Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. Situated in the traditional territories of the Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations, the house is intended to avoid negative effects on its surroundings, its inhabitants, and the Earth.

The approach to the house proposes a model for building in the face of the climate crisis. Now, more than ever, our buildings must discontinue the use of fossil fuels and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, both those embodied in their construction, and in operation. These issues, made more obvious by the remarkable setting, demands the house to demonstrate a better path ahead through the choices and priorities that it exhibits.

A comprehensive set of strategies promise to fulfill the intent to demonstrate a meaningful response to these issues:
Prefabrication – The house is largely prefabricated, prioritizing local expertise, craft, and materials.
Beyond Net Zero Energy – The house creates more energy than it uses.
Minimal infrastructure – The house collects the water it requires and treats its waste.
Zero Emissions – The house does not use fossil fuels, nor does it require combustion to operate.
Passive House Certified – The house features exceptional thermal performance and airtightness, promising outstanding comfort.
Independence – The house is off-grid.
Carbon Sequestration – The house stores 157 tonnes net of Carbon Dioxide equivalent in its structure.
Healthy Materials – The house minimizes the use of petroleum and chemically based materials.

The ‘two-layered’ approach to the enclosure of the house allows for a weather shading outer surface, supported by a repetitive timber structure, and an inner ‘thermal’ layer supported by mass timber walls. The climate at the project site is characterized by large seasonal variation, with a wide range in temperatures, and excessive precipitation in winter making for exceptional snow loads. The Passive House enclosure features a continuous air barrier on the outside of the inner walls, complimented by 610mm of continuous mineral wool insulation. Detailed thermal modeling of each condition was undertaken to ensure exceptional thermal performance and air tightness. The defining feature of the south elevation is the integrated 32kW photovoltaic array.

The fundamental attitude to the operation of the building is to prioritize passive strategies. As a passive house, an ‘enclosure-first’ approach is the critical that ensures small heating loads. However, as an ‘off-grid’ home, a number of systems are required, and were intended to be as energy efficient as possible. Energy is converted from sunlight to electricity, and the latent heat in the earth is collected for use in a hydronic thermal system. The building does not consume fossil fuels, and no combustion sources are required for its operation, for example emergency power is delivered via a hydrogen fuel cell instead of a conventional diesel, gas, or propane generator.

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