Environmentally friendly passive houses are coming to Vancouver

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      Alexander Maurer expects more activity in Vancouver around passive houses. These are super energy-efficient homes that don’t require a conventional heating source like a furnace, even during winter.

      Maurer is a leading expert in this field. He designed the first residence in B.C. that met international standards for a passive house. Called the Rainbow Duplex and located in Whistler, the home opened for public viewing in 2012.

      At present, the founder and managing director of Marken Design + Consulting has two potential clients in Vancouver who are thinking of building their own ecofriendly homes east of Commercial Drive.

      Maurer thinks that their decision depends a lot on city council’s anticipated approval of staff recommendations to relax certain requirements for new single-family homes that meet standards set by the Germany-based Passive House Institute.

      Council was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the evening of October 20 regarding proposed changes to the zoning and development bylaw. The amendments will allow passive houses to have the same habitable floor area as a regular home.

      “I think if that bylaw goes through, they will go for it,” Maurer told the Straight in a phone interview earlier on the same day.

      Maurer explained that a passive house requires thicker walls and ceilings for extra insulation, which reduces its habitable space if the current bylaw is applied.

      City staff have proposed a decrease in rear-yard and an increase in building-depth requirements. “It means that we get a credit for those thicker walls, so there’s no interior space lost,” Maurer noted.

      Staff also recommended increasing the height of homes meeting passive-house standards by 1.2 metres. This means that a new energy-efficient house can go from the current height limit of 9.5 metres to 10.7 metres.

      According to a report prepared by staff, passive houses use 55 to 60 percent less energy than homes meeting the city’s present building bylaw.

      Staff also reported that there are more than 40,000 certified passive-house buildings around the world, mostly in areas that have a climate similar to Vancouver’s.