A house without a furnace or air conditioning, yet is the perfect temperature year-round may sound unbelievable, but in an air-tight, energy efficient passive house, it is possible.
In 2013, Rob and Mark Bernhardt, father-son developer and contractor duo, built a custom passive house for themselves and their family.
Now, they are building the first one to go on the market.
The North Park Passive House, located at 860 Queens Ave., Victoria, is Canada’s first multi-unit strata project built to the passive house standard. The house contains six separate units.
It is expected to cut heating costs by 90 per cent through its added insulation and design.
“A passive house essentially uses about 10 per cent of the heat of a normal house to heat it,” said Adam Fawkes, architect with Hughes Condon Marler Architects.
Passive houses are made with the same type of insulation as normal houses, only with more than double the amount, as well as insulation under the floors.
This added insulation helps to keep the house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
“In a typical house, you might spend about $12,000 on the furnace and all the duct work,” said Fawkes. “So you take that $12,000, and you put it towards a little bit of insulation. The mortgage is less than the savings on the heating bills. So in the end, instead of paying into the heating bill, you’re paying into the mortgage.”
The cost of building a passive house is comparable to the average cost of building a conventional house, said Mark.
North Park Passive House will have cost around $1 million by the time it is completed in August.
Along with more insulation, the passive house is also fitted with triple-glazed windows, which help to prevent heat loss.
While there is no furnace, all six units in the North Park Passive House will have heated tile floors in the bathrooms along with a small electric radiant panel in the kitchen.
“Together, those two will produce about 668 watts of heat on average per unit,” said Mark. “Most people have hair driers bigger than that.”
In the house, there is a heat recovery ventilator that mixes the heat around through the unit through air flow. The heat recovery ventilator uses about 30 watts and runs all day and night, but it only costs a few dollars a month to run, said Mark.
“The heating bill for each unit ends up being about $58 for the entire year.”
Besides lower heating bills, another major benefit is the comfort level.
“They are so dramatically more comfortable, it’s really even hard to describe how much more comfortable is it than a normal building,” said Mark. “It’s like walking around in a warm hug.”
Since the building is so air tight and there is even airflow, there are no cold spots or drafts anywhere in the house.
“You can stand by a gigantic window on the coldest day of the year and be comfortable without a sweater on.”
For more information, please go online to bernhardtcontracting.com/northpark