Spire Development is nearing completion on its first-ever project designed to be Passive House certified. VRCA and On Site with VRCA recently toured Spire Landing at East 57th Avenue and Fraser Street in Vancouver to learn more about this innovative structure and what makes Passive House design unique.

When it is completed and certified, Spire Landing will be the largest multi-unit Passive House build in the country. The six-storey rental property includes 95 suites, a fitness centre, several shared community spaces and a rooftop garden. Occupancy is planned for April 2019.

Passive House is an energy standard in residential, industrial and commercial building design and construction that allows buildings to achieve energy efficiency by using specific construction and design guidelines. A Passive House project uses insulation, Passive House certified windows, site orientation and window shading based on the sun’s seasonal location and heat recovery ventilation (HRV) systems to reduce overall heat loss.

The building’s HRV systems minimize indoor humidity and ensures optimal air quality. Internal heat sources such as body heat, televisions, lightbulbs and appliances, combined with the warmth of the sun and airtight sealing tape (Spire Development chose SIGA tape) keep the inside of the building a comfortable temperature for residents.

A Passive House build requires minimal air leakages and limited thermal bridging in order to minimize additional heating and cooling needs. This saves money on heating costs and promotes energy efficiency. Spire conducted blower door tests to measure the building’s air tightness, achieving a rating of 0.3 air changes per hour (ACH) at 50 Pa, compared to the maximum allowable by Passive House at 0.6 ACH.

“Knowing that Vancouver has a rental vacancy rate of less than one per cent, there is a real demand to increase rental units, and a chance for Spire to make a lasting impact in the community where we conduct business,” said Rose Choi, Spire’s marketing manager.

“Spire is committed to build above standards using the Passive House method, and to intentionally make Spire Landing 100 per cent rental. Creating what matters is at the core of Spire’s values. We are motivated to redefine Vancouverites’ rental experiences, both from a quality of living and from an affordability viewpoint.”

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Asked about the challenges his team faced during the design and construction of Spire Landing, project manager Samuel Rupp said the project required a lot of pre-planning and attention to detail to guarantee the preservation of the air barrier. He also said it was difficult to find the skilled labourers with Passive House expertise that were needed for each part of the building.

The City of Vancouver has set a goal of having most new buildings built to near zero emissions standards by 2025, and all new buildings by 2030. Sean Pander, green building manager for the City of Vancouver, attended the tour and commented that Passive House builds “help develop close-knit communities, as well as a community of best practice.”

Sean also explained that this past summer, Vancouver City Council approved the Zero Emissions Buildings Catalyst Tools Policy, which allows for an incremental five per cent floor space ratio bonus for qualifying zero emissions multifamily buildings. The five per cent floor space incentive is available until December 31, 2025.

The City of New Westminster also offers a 10 per cent incremental density for detached homes built to Passive House standards or to Step 5 of the Energy Step Code.

ZEBx (the Zero Emissions Building Exchange) and its host VRCA offer resources and events to get those in the industry excited and informed about the benefits of zero emissions building, of which Passive House is one of many building options. For more information about ZEBx, its events and available building incentives, click here.

Thank you to Rose Choi, Samuel Rupp and the team at Spire Development for a very informative tour.

For more information about On Site with VRCA and the benefits of VRCA membership, contact Membership Services at [email protected].