Lost Lake Passive House (Whistler, British Columbia)

5 Canadian Winter-Ready Homes

If there is anything Canada is more famous for than its maple syrup, it’s the frigid winters that chill the country from coast to coast. All homes built in Canada are done with the knowledge that they must be able to withstand winter’s chill as well as summer’s heat. Constructing a home in Canada is a unique challenge that is often overcome by ensuring that the home is insulated beyond the standards set out in the National Building Code of Canada. Read below to get inspired by these Canadian homes and how their owners decided to take on the chill of winter!

1. The Saskatchewan Conservation House (Regina, Saskatchewan)

Built in 1977, The Saskatchewan House was a pioneer in energy efficient homes for its time and remains just as efficient almost 40 years later. At the time, the Saskatchewan government asked the Saskatchewan Research Council to design and build a solar house appropriate for Saskatchewan’s climate (Dodge & Thompson, 2016). Harold Orr was tasked with designing a building that could withstand the sky-rocketing cost of energy and create a standard home that would require as little energy from the grid as possible.  After dramatically increasing the insulation with R40 walls and an R60 ceiling, all that was left was to reduce was air leakage which had to pass the blower door test, a requirement now for passive homes.

The Saskatchewan House is one of the first houses that has fresh air supplied by heat recovery ventilation. Harold Orr is still building efficient homes in Saskatchewan today and continuing to change the way people insulate their homes (Reynolds, 2013).


2. The Hunter House (Peterborough, Ontario)

Originally imagined by Paul Dowsett, the principal of Sustainable TO Architecture + Building, the Hunter House is a 2,500 sq-ft home insulated primarily with straw bales and clay-based plaster. The client, Glen Hunter, claims that his “environmentalism is steeped in… a more of a modern kind of self-sufficiency, back to the land with all the benefits of modern technology” (Hunter, 2016). He created an entire website dedicated to the construction and methodology involved in his dream, off-the-grid home in the hopes of teaching others how feasible an environmentally-friendly home is.

The heat sources that this home rely on are primarily the sun, a wood burning stove and radiant in-floor heating. Sunshine comes through the 50-foot glass windows on the south side and provide enough warmth in the winter by heating the concrete floors. This home is an inspiration for those who are environmentally conscious and are looking for innovative ways to save on energy costs. One can only admire the work and dedication that Glen Hunter has put into his idealistic abode and can read more on his personal blog that details the entire process (Mays, 2015).


3. The Naugler House (Douglas, New Brunswick)

The Naugler House, designed by Win and Tim Naugler, is the first Passive House in New Brunswick and has a heating bill that costs the owners $77 for a winter on the chilly island of New Brunswick in 2012. As the owners, they are most pleased with the pleasant and spacious feel of the living space (Naugler & Naugler, 2013). Tim and Win aim to spread the idea that a high-performance home has major payoffs that extend beyond heating bill savings to Atlantic Canada. The indoor air quality is excellent, the quiet inside the home is impeccable and the home is airtight, ensuring no heat leakage throughout the home. In addition, local sources and materials were used as often as possible to minimize their environmental impact. Needless to say, their dream of constructing a home that would set an example for all future homes in the East coast of Canada was achieved.


4. Lost Lake Passive House (Whistler, British Columbia)

The first registered Passive House building in Canada was originally built for the 2010 Winter Olympics as a home base for the Austrian team. This project was a collaborative effort between five private Austrian companies, forming the Austrian Passive House Group that aimed to showcase Austria’s commitment to sustainability and the environment. After the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the Austria Haus was gifted to the Resort Municipality of Whistler to be a Passive House education centre and recreation storage and function space (Durfeld Constructors, 2016).

The house uses 4kWh per square-foot per year, in comparison to the average Canadian home which uses 400 kWh per square-foot per year. All materials were shipped from Austria, in eight large freight containers, making this project slightly less sustainable than desired. However, the goal was to showcase highly-efficient buildings, and that goal was inarguably achieved as passive homes are continuing to be built all over Canada (Mitsui, 2010).


5. New Edinburgh Residence (Ottawa, Ontario)

This modular home, located in the New Edinburgh neighbourhood of Ottawa, was built by Chris Stratka who dreamed of owning a super-insulated home. He decided that going modular made the most sense due to the protection from the elements during construction, reduction in waste produced and less disruption to the local neighbourhoods. The home, without finishings, was built in just three short weeks using solely North American products to demonstrate that North America does, in fact, have the necessary technology and resources to build super-insulated homes that were originally coined in Europe. Chris also emphasized that he did not want a gas line to the house as he would like to rely on electricity for cooking and heating. This is because gas does not fully combust and is not indoor air quality friendly and he believes that becoming reliant on gas means that you can never convert your home to 100% renewable energy (Rust, 2011).

Harold Orr of The Saskatchewan House once compared a coffee maker and a thermos to a well insulated home saying that “A coffeemaker puts heat into [a pot] and keeps the coffee warm as long as you pay the bill. But when you fill the thermos, the coffee will stay warm for a long period of time” (Dodge & Thompson, 2016). Quite simply, the Passive House is a standard all Canadian home builders should aspire towards. With some of the coldest winters in the world, Canadians should be focusing on making their homes as air-tight and well-insulated as possible in order to reduce their environmental footprint and save on those escalating energy bills.

When building a custom home from scratch, improving the insulation is one of the best things you can invest in for the long term. Anyone who has lived in a well-insulated home will tell you that there is no going back to a traditional home. Amongst modern homes are BONE Structure homes, which use a spray polyurethane spray foam insulation that seals the home and can save you up to 90% on heating and cooling energy costs. A member of BONE Structure’s team would be more than happy to help you realize your well-insulated and winter-ready home today!

Cross Country Connection. (2016). Lost Lake PassivHaus.
Retrieved from Cross Country Connection: http://www.crosscountryconnection.ca/lost-lake/passivhaus/

Dodge, D., & Thompson, D. (2016, March 14). Harold Orr, a pioneer of the passive house movement, witnesses the first certified home in Saskatchewan, 39 years later. Retrieved from Green Energy Futures: http://www.greenenergyfutures.ca/episode/saskatchewans-first-certified-passive-house

Durfeld Constructors. (2016). Austrian Olympic Passive House.
Retrieved from Durfeld Constructors: http://www.durfeldlogconstruction.com/our-work/passive/austrian-olympic-passive-house

Hunter, G. (2016). The Straw House Blog.
Retrieved from The Straw House Blog: http://www.glenhunter.ca/

Mays, J. B. (2015). In the age of ‘smart’ homes, sometimes dumb is best.
Retrieved from The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/home-and-garden/architecture/in-the-age-of-smart-homes-sometimes-dumb-is-best/article22573251/

Mitsui, E. (2010, February 19). The ‘greenest house’ at the Games.
Retrieved from CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/the-greenest-house-at-the-games-1.912894

Naugler, T., & Naugler, W. (2013). New Brunswick’s Most Energy-Efficient Home.
Retrieved from Eco Home: http://www.ecohome.net/news/latest/new-brunswick-s-energy-efficient-home

Reynolds, M. (2013, October 15). Saskatchewan: The birthplace of high performance buiildings and passive solar home design.
Retrieved from Eco Home: http://www.ecohome.net/news/latest/saskatchewan-birthplace-high-performance-buildings-passive-solar-home-design

Rust, C. (2011, March 8). A Tour of the First “Passive House Certified” Residence in Canada.
Retrieved from BEC Green: http://becgreen.ca/2011/03/a-tour-of-the-first-passive-house-certified-house-in-canada/