Getting Active On Building Passive

December 10, 2018
Rendering of Symons Gate Passive Haus in Calgary Alberta Brookfield Residential

Brookfield Residential is building one of the greenest houses ever constructed in Alberta. The "Symons Gate Passiv Haus" will use 90% less energy than a typical new home constructed today. And this prairie house doesn’t come with a furnace!

"The catchphrase commonly used to describe a Passive House is 'you can heat it with a hairdryer and cool it with an ice cube,'" says Doug Owens, Senior Director, Operations with Brookfield Residential’s Calgary Homes team and lead for the pilot project.

The Symons Gate Passiv Haus is a living, working demonstration of sustainability and Brookfield Residential’s commitment to innovation. Located at 274 Sage Bluff Dr. NW, the "super-insulated" house will be a sustainability showcase, when it is completed later this year. Prior to selling it, Brookfield plans operate it for a year with plenty of tours for green associations, schools and community groups and government and industry leaders to further the sustainability conversation.

The home's energy savings are thanks to:

  • super-insulated walls and roof
  • air-tight construction
  • ultra-efficient windows
  • the sun and warmth generated by day-to-day living

What makes the Passive Haus special?

Eventual homeowners will enjoy an incredibly quiet and comfortable home. One with excellent air quality (limited use of VOC's) and free from cold spots and excessive overheating. Heating and operating costs will be lower thanks to the significant energy savings and use of high-quality components.This house is built to withstand extreme weather through extensive use of cross laminated timber and wood fibre board.

Construction of Symons Gate Passive Haus in Calgary, Alberta | Brookfield Residential

The home was designed and engineered in Germany, the acknowledged world leader in passive house construction.

Factory built in Germany, the effective R45 walls for the 2,435 ft2 house were shipped to Calgary along with Austrian-built R8 windows. A special foundation was poured using foam to create a complete "thermal break" from the external environment.  Brookfield’s master builders then assembled the home on site. The house uses alternative materials and mechanical systems. It's oriented on the lot to take full advantage of one of Alberta's most abundant natural resources—the sun. Calgary sees the most sun of any Canadian city, so the home is also planning to feature a 10 kW grid-tied PV solar array.

Brookfield Residential looking to the future with the Passive Haus

While several Passive Houses have been built in Alberta, Brookfield aims this to be the first Passive House in Alberta certified by Germany’s Passivhaus Institut. "We all thought it was a pretty cool opportunity to experiment with a standard that's not really well known in Canada," says Elizabeth Barry, Development Manager at Brookfield. Viewed as the most stringent energy standard in the world, the Passive House standard was developed in Germany but actually started in Saskatchewan in the 1970's through the construction of the "Conservation House".

"It’s our hope that this home will spark important conversations about energy efficiency and home design among homebuyers, neighbours, and industry and government.  We build quality homes that will last a long time. This Passive House is exactly that."

With close to 60 years of homebuilding under its tool belt, Brookfield enhances and improves building practices in step with code changes and technology improvements. Along with its trade partners, Brookfield will take the learnings from the Symons Gate Passiv Haus project and evaluate how to incorporate them into its product lines. “As a pilot project, this house will be a ‘one-off’ in this community,” explains Owens, “but it will provide our employee, craftsmen and trades partners with new experiences and understandings to help prepare for anticipated future energy code improvements.” Progressive and engaged partners are critical to the success of innovative projects like the Passive House says Owens.

Construction of Symons Gate Passive Haus in Calgary, Alberta | Brookfield Residential

Some of the partners that Brookfield is pleased to be working with to construct the home include:

  • Stitch Consulting
  • Omega 2000
  • Sawback Builders
  • Canyon Plumbing
  • Trecc Electric
  • B.M.W. Roofing and Siding

The excitement and passion among Brookfield’s project and trades teams is palpable: “Doing something like this is a huge learning process,” says Owens. "It's going to be a great indicator of what sustainability might look like in the future."

What's next?

Brookfield Residential plans to complete the home over the summer and officially open its energy efficient doors in the fall.

Follow @BrookfieldYYC to see updates on the Symons Gate Passive Haus.