First published by our print affiliate Ecohouse Magazine. The author, Rob Bernhardt, is with Bernhardt Contracting in Victoria.

Building the first Passive House on Vancouver Island, a duplex shared with our son Mark’s family, convinced us that the market in Victoria was ready for Passive House market condominiums. To follow through, we built the North Park Passive house, a six-unit urban infill market condominium.

Even with little marketing budget, the project sold out prior to completion in the spring of 2015, and generated a long list of potential buyers of future projects. The two-bedroom residences average 825 square feet and were priced from $295,000 to $350,000 per unit.

The North Park Passive House was designed by HCMA Architecture + Design, and combined the context of the existing neighbourhood and Passive House principles. Details give a modern flare to the aesthetic while still achieving an extremely high level of energy-efficiency.Deep-set windows and doors are a result of wall thickness, and, simply through their inherent quality, have a strong, permanent feel, with detailing and shadow lines arising naturally from the thicker walls.

Contemporary detailing such as vertical slats on the sides of the balconies and horizontal slats on the sliding bike storage doors distinguish the residences as modern. Accent colour on the front doors, clear finish cedar siding on the walls, and soffits focus the eye and bring attention to these  entrances, signaling that ‘neighbours live here’. The project provides a benchmark for future developments by showing what can be achieved with high-quality residences designed within their architectural, urban and environmental context.

Moreover, Passive House construction can easily incorporate elements of sustainability in materials and renewable energy. The North Park Passive House for example, contains rock wool and dense-packed cellulose insulation, FSC-certified engineered hardwood floors and the solid surface countertops made from recycled glass.

A photovoltaic solar array on the roof feeds electricity to the grid via the Strata corporation’s [an ownership model in BC similar to condominium ownership] smart meter. With a net-metering program in effect and very little load on that meter, the Strata corporation will receive an annual cheque from BC Hydro, helping to reduce strata fees.

In designing this project, we sought economic construction options to maintain affordability, but were not willing to compromise the quality of the envelope or the acoustical separation of the units. Given the quiet indoor atmosphere of a Passive House, extra measures were taken to minimize sound transfer between suites. Mineral wool acoustical insulation was used between floors in conjunction with concrete floor topping, plus resilient strips and double drywall on the ceilings. Cast iron drain pipes were used to minimize the sound of drain water. Double-stud party walls acoustically separate the suites, and “Quiet Rock” drywall in stairwells reduces noise transfer in those locations.

  • Materials
    Wood-frame construction with ICF foundation and EPS insulation under slab, mineral wool and cellulose insulation. Exterior window shades, and PV array on roof. The HRV is a Zehnder Novus 300, Windows are made by EuroLine .

North Park Passive House