They don’t believe it until they come see it: A Passive House Adventure
By Penny Beaudry
This is the story of a model home that has since become Angie and Abby Xerri’s place to call home. The model home is built in a cold climate at Minden Ontario Canada. It is Passivhaus (PH) certified and was designed and built by Quantum Passivhaus showcasing an example of this better way of building.
The Xerri residents both happen to be a part of the Quantum Passivhaus team with architect, Angie and President and General Manager, Abby who represent an average family living in a passive home.
Quantum began its journey approximately two years ago. Since then, they designed and assembled their production facility where quality products and systems are built in a controlled environment. This is Passivhaus “The Quantum Way”, as the Quantum team like to call it.
Approximately 700-800 people have been in the passive model home over the course of a one and a half year span. Xerri claims that the visitors were amazed particularly during the winter when there was no heat on and the house remained comfortable at 16 degrees Celsius. People are very interested to learn more about a house that uses 80-90% less energy compared to conventional construction.
“They don’t believe it until they come see it.”
- Abby Xerri
As of summer 2018, they started installing finishes and then started treating it like home. The Xerri family is currently living here although they have a few tasks remaining such as the front deck, planter boxes, and planter trellises that still need to be installed. The planter trellises will provide natural solar shading on the south face during the summer to avoid overheating. This past summer the home experienced some overheating that should be resolved once the solar shading gets installed. Xerri sees this as an opportunity to collect data to monitor the difference once the trellises are up.
Hidden Floor Plans
Life is constantly changing whether it is space requirements, room amount, old age, or income fluctuation – these floor plans can accommodate it. Quantum provides a “hidden floor plan” within the floor plan to be able to adapt to future uses. The model home for example, is currently a 3-bedroom house configuration that can be converted to a 1-bedroom apartment and 2-bedroom home configuration. The conversion would require minimal alterations to walls, doors, and plumbing. All electrical options have already been considered and would not require an electrician to perform any changes. The clients’ desired layout is well thought out to incorporate a second layout during the design phase. At Quantum, the architect works directly with the PH consultant.
“Our Win/Win approach and commitment to owning our part to the success of the project offers an experience that demonstrates dedication and focus.”
- Abby Xerri
The walls are 20” thick prefabricated airtight construction, using the Intello Plus interior membrane and the Mento exterior membrane. The roof’s open span trusses are non intrusive to the air barrier membrane in order to keep the system airtight. During the door blower test, the model home achieved 0.38 ACH, which is very impressive for a small house.
The small footprint (1600 square feet) challenged the PH principles but managed to achieve the certification with all Passivhaus Principles Package (PHPP) details are being met. PHPP is a planning tool for energy efficiency for the use on new buildings or retrofit projects by architects and planning experts.
Quantum does all their own energy modelling and was able to build the model home on par with traditional construction when factoring all costs. The model home costs were approximately $200 per square foot. This particular site was a sand fill level lot, which was a major cost advantage. Any costs associated with learning hurdles were not included in the comparison.
Quantum Systems & Fabrication
The fabrication process focuses strictly on producing structures and panels to the Passivhaus Standard including energy efficiency and a thermal bridge free assembly. The prefabrication workshop has two large tables that were designed and fabricated by Quantum where they can build walls up to 32 feet long.
Passive Prefab Assembly
With this method of construction, they were able to install all walls in a 1500 square foot bungalow in just four hours! This time includes a completely weathertight system, strapped for cladding, and strapped internally for mechanical equipment. This is the product of careful design in order to never have penetrations through the membrane, keeping it as airtight and thermal bridge free as possible.