Kelowna, BC , Canada
Defined by sun floods, through views, and candy-coloured stairwells, the new, six-storey Passive House Skeena residence provides 220 modified traditional bedrooms and support amenities. Completing an ensemble of buildings surrounding the Commons lawn at UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna, BC, the residence provides easy access to outdoor green space for picnics, fitness, or just hanging around.
More than with conventional building methodologies, an integrated design process is vital to achieving Passive House. A conventional design process begins with broad strokes and becomes further refined with each iteration. With Passive House, however, details rule: even fasteners become an essential element because of their ability to conduct heat. Designing the details in preliminary phases allows for accurate energy modeling.
The Passive House process accelerates decision-making and is heavily weighted toward preliminary design with significant time and cost savings achieved by working through problems in the beginning. Energy invested early in the design pays off over the lifetime of the building. To demonstrate the efficiency of the residence: at the coldest point in the year, more than ¼ of the heat required for the building is supplied by student body heat.
How is the project unique?
Skeena Residence is the first Passive House dormitory in Canada and the second in North America. It will be part of UBCO’s Living Laboratory initiative. As one of several wood frame dormitories on campus, it creates a unique opportunity for studying Passive House performance in Canada. The building has been fitted with a comprehensive monitoring system which will gather data to compare Skeena’s energy use and occupant comfort with neighbouring buildings built to LEED Gold and BC Building code standards.
The first cohort of students who are living in the building will complete a post-occupancy survey at the end of the school year which will be added to the study. Every year 220 university students will call Skeena Residence home and become familiar with the advantages of Passive House and act as advocates for low energy living.
What were the key challenges?
1. The decision to pursue Passive House would not be made until after the project was designed and the schedule could not be interrupted.PUBLIC’s solution was to design the Passive House layer and systems like a jacket that could simply be taken off within hiccup.
2. Passive House buildings require simple forms for energy efficiency. Skeena was built into a non–Passive House context, which set up unrealistic design expectations.To counter these expectations, our team allowed for time to educate and inform the client and user groups.
3. Construction of the wall assembly is new—and therefore challenging—to many tradespeople.To offset this learning curve, RDH, the envelope consultant offered onsite workshops focused on Passive House construction.
4. Achieving Passive House for Skeena Residence was complicated by the northern desert climatic of the Okanagan region and the student residence typology, which has higher population density; greater density of appliances (fridges, hair dryers, and computers) that creates an enormous plug load, or electrical draw; and much higher humidity than typical multi-family residential. To combat these factors, Skeena focused on insulation, airtightness, and moisture control. For example, air circulation is completely renewed every three hours via highly efficient mechanical systems, thus warding off the threat of mold. Despite these complexities, Skeena Residence was delivered ahead of schedule, under budget, and during a pandemic.
5. Some key components of Passive House building have long-lead times. To avoid schedule delays, pre-tender some of the key components such as HRV units and triple-glazed windows.
|Architect||WMW Public: Architecture + Communication Inc.|
|Passive House consultant||RDH Building Science|
|Acoustic consultant||BKL Consultants|
|Site representative, Passive House advisor||Nido Design|
|Structural||Bush, Bohlman & Partners|
|Geotechnical consultant||Interior Testing Services|
|Code consultant||GHL Consultants|
|Envelope consultant||RDH Building Science|
|Elevator consultant||Apex Elevator|
|Construction Manager||Sawchuk Developments|
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