Vancouver school board studies energy-efficient “passive house” standard

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A European building standard called “passive house” has aroused the interest of the Vancouver school board.

The district is eager to have the first school in Canada that meets the energy-efficient specifications of this design, which doesn’t require conventional heating and cooling.

At a meeting of the board’s planning and facilities committee on April 23, education trustee Rob Wynen asked staff to study what it would take to build and retrofit schools based on the passive-house standard.

“If this really is going to work as a good model, we need to know this now before we rebuild all of our schools,” Wynen told the Straight in a phone interview.

Ron Macdonald, the school district’s manager of energy and sustainability, reported to the planning and facilities committee that the Vancouver school system purchases almost $6 million in electricity and natural gas every year. Macdonald noted that electricity costs are expected to increase by about 30 percent over the next five years.

European-trained and Vancouver-based architect Guido Wimmers, founding director of the nonprofit Canadian Passive House Institute, told the Straight by phone that the design involves a better envelope and insulation. Wimmers noted that this results in energy savings of up to 90 percent compared to conventional buildings.

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