SoLo, a wooden home in a distant region of British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, has garnered Passive House certification, earning the distinction of the first Passive House certified building designed by Perkins + Will.
Recognised as the toughest standard for sustainable energy performance, the Passive House Institute verifies that SoLo adheres to the criteria for the PHI Low Energy Building Standard.
Situated in the Lower Soo Valley, north of Whistler, SoLo was designed as a prototype for Vancouver developer Delta Land Development. A testing site for low-energy systems, healthful materials, prefabricated and modular building techniques, and independent operations, the home will inspire the approach to more large-scale building projects. The home was finished in 2020.
Processing its own electricity by way of renewable energy sources, mainly from a solar energy system with a hydrogen fuel cell as a secondary source, SoLo needs no fossil fuels or combustion for its workings. This mechanism generates more energy than it uses, producing net positive energy performance. The home has garnered the highest rating from EnerGuide, Canada’s energy performance rating system, and exceeds Step 5 of the British Columbia Energy Step Code, marking the most exalted level of energy efficiency in the province.
Considering the extreme climate—the average daily temperature measures about -17°C (2°F) in winter, with lows of -30°C (-22°F), and exceeding 30°C (90°F) in summer—attaining thermal comfort was needed. Measures like a thickened insulation layer, triple pane windows, and an airtight envelope, as well as optimum passive ventilation, solar gains, and daylighting, guarantees a temperate and healthful living environment while easing dependance on energy intensive mechanical systems. The minor demand for heating is supplied by a geoxchange loop that utilizes heat stored from the ground.
The site for the prototypical home provided a challenge because of its beautiful views of the northeast. Overhangs block the sun on the south side, while deep reveals or fins block solar gain through the east- and west-directed glazing.
Choosing prefabricated component construction provided visible benefits for a home in this wintery climate, permitting manufacturing during the winter season. Prefabrication lessens building waste and site disturbance.