When we talk about energy efficient home design, there is perhaps no standard higher than Passive House. Passive homes have energy savings of 80% to 90%, over non-Passive House designed structures. The theory is that our homes can be comfortably warm in winter and cool in summer without much use of artificial heating and cooling methods – instead using the home’s design and its environment to create a comfortable living space.

What are Passive House design standards in Canada?

The Ice Box Challenge was an event created by Passive House Canada to show the difference in energy efficiency for structures built to BC Building Code standards, versus their own. From the results, they proved their point: Passive House standards are better insulated and more energy-efficient than what the BC Building Code alone offers.

Here you will find the full list of Passive House design fundamentals. Below is a summary.

Building shape

Efficient buildings have a smaller surface area, where energy such as heat, could potentially escape. Expansive designs tend to be less efficient, whereas a Passive House will have a smaller surface area, even if the square footage is the same.

Sun exposure

This refers to using solar heat gains to the benefit of your family. North-facing windows heat the home naturally during winter, but draw in little solar heat during summer. South-facing windows should be glazed to minimize solar heat gains year-round. This article explains using windows to regulate a home’s temperature naturally in full detail.


Under Passive House standards, Canadian homes need an insulation factor that is five to seven times better than the BC Building Code requires. This can be achieved with more efficient insulating materials, and by eliminating unwanted escapage of air from inside the home by fully sealing the structure with insulation.


Like the section on insulation above, airtightness is paramount for a Passive House, in order to eliminate heat loss and to protect against damage from moisture.


In addition to airtightness and high insulation values, there must also be efficient ventilation for the home to ensure a high level of air quality.

Source: Canadian Passive House Institute

True Passive House design require the Canadian standards to be implemented in the design beginning in the conceptual stage. However, certain elements of Passive House design can be implemented into a custom home design, without following the full list of prescribed standards.

How can you incorporate Passive House standards into your custom home design?

When building a home in the Vancouver area, speak with your residential designer about incorporating some Passive House techniques into your home. Window placement and glazing, efficient insulating materials and smart use of space that reduces your home’s surface area all contribute to a home that is more comfortable to live in, affordable to build, and costs less to run.