Reflection and anticipation: How far we’ve come and where we’re going

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by Rob Bernhardt, CEO

The quiet softness falling snow in the night (or the thought of it) as the holiday season approaches seems to inspire reflection. Passive House Canada has experienced amazing growth this year in so many respects—in membership, in the number and complexity of projects we’ve undertaken, and in training and number of events held.

However, one area of achievement that stands out as having the most impact on the future of the Passive House building standard in Canada is policy development.

We secured an early beachhead in Vancouver because of that city’s leadership in buildings policy; now, with the climate change imperative beginning to shape decisions across the country, momentum is building on several fronts:

  • Toronto, with its Zero Emissions Building Framework, high-rise project proposals and the Waterfront Toronto initiative that indicates Passive House will be the baseline standard applied to buildings onsite, is set to move rapidly.
  • Ontario is revising its building code, and wrapped up public consultation this fall. Increases to building energy efficiency were being considered.
  • Local governments across B.C. are considering which level of the province’s new Energy Step Code they will reference in their municipal building bylaws and zoning requirements
  • BuildSmart: Canada’s Buildings Strategy is starting to take root, driving federal funding and policies.

In the space of the last two years, Passive House performance levels have evolved from being viewed as an unrealistic ideal to being considered the minimum standard Canadians should expect from their buildings. Elected officials at all levels are learning the standard exists and works—in all climate zones—and local government policy makers and planners are registering for our courses to learn more.

On reflection, this rapid evolution makes sense. Passive House was developed after the European Union asked a policy question: How efficient should buildings be? The standard was developed to address a global need.

At the time, the performance level was not attainable, because the required components and skills did not yet exist. Undaunted, the Passive House Institute took the long view, urging practitioners and manufacturers to innovate, change how they do business, and make the performance levels achievable. The standard was never designed to be something that was easy to achieve. Unlike more common, less rigorous standards, it requires industry to change. It was also never likely to be widely adopted as a result of marketing.

Because the standard requires fundamental changes in how we do business, regulatory and policy support is required to shift the culture of our sector.

But the lesson we’ve learned at Passive House Canada over the past year is how readily industry can change with effective public-sector leadership.

With more-widespread acceptance of the feasibility of Passive House performance levels, it is timely to consider how we can best support the coming market transformation. We are working closely with established industry groups and companies. Are there new collaborations we should initiate? Would market transformation be accelerated if we did? We’re exploring these questions as we meet with industry leaders and policy makers to identify a strategy for the coming years.

We at Passive House Canada HQ thank you—our members, colleagues, supporters, friends and course participants—for helping to advance the Passive House movement so quickly and so far in Canada during the past year. We look forward to working with you through the coming year.

As we reflect this holiday season, we can see many exciting opportunities ahead, as well as the distance we’ve come so quickly. Our work is just beginning.

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