FenCan Annual Meeting: WinDoor and Passive House

June 7th, 2018 by Trey Barrineau

Architect Oscar Flechas discusses passive house construction.

Canada’s WinDoor show, scheduled for December 3-5 in Quebec City, is a full six months away. However, planning has been underway since last year’s show wrapped up in Toronto, and the big event was a major focus of Fenestration Canada’s annual general meeting, which just wrapped up in Calgary.

According to WinDoor organizers, booth sales are running about 55 percent ahead of this time last year, and the WinDoor website shows that 42 exhibitors have already signed up for the event.

A tentative WinDoor schedule is available on the event’s website. It shows that an opening reception is set for the first night at the Quebec Convention Centre, followed by a Dine Around evening in historic Quebec City that will feature stops at a selection of restaurants. It’s similar to the  movable feast around Old Montreal at the 2016 show that stopped at three unique restaurants for cocktails and small bites.

There are plenty of educational sessions on the schedule as well, a feature of the 2017 show in Toronto. However, the full educational program hasn’t been completed yet.

WinDoor organizers want to make the event more appealing to a broader segment of the door, window and glass industry. To that end, Fenestration Canada is looking to boost commercial education sessions and get more companies in commercial fenestration to exhibit at the show.

Passive House

As Canada prepares to embrace more stringent construction standards to conserve energy, passive house construction is starting to generate more discussion. Calgary-based architect Oscar Flechas gave a presentation to the Fenestration Canada annual general meeting about the passive house standard and what it means for fenestration.

Flechas says he thinks “conservation house” is a much better name for this type of structure, which can reduce energy consumption by up to 75 percent. He also says passive house has much more clearly defined standards than net zero, which refers to zero net energy consumption. That means the total amount of energy used by the building each year is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. As an example, California recently enacted a regulation requiring all new residential construction to be net zero by 2020 through the use of solar panels.

By contrast, passive house construction uses super-tight insulation, including high-performance windows, to maintain a comfortable interior temperature without active heating and cooling systems.

Flechas says that while the standard is called “passive house,” it can be applied to many types of structures.

“It’s really a passive building,” he says. “There are fire stations in British Columbia that are passive house-certified. Twenty years from now, I’m not going to be talking about a passive house. I’ll be talking about building to code.”

Flechas says there are five principles to passive house: Insulation, airtightness, thermal-bridge-free construction, doors and windows, and mechanical ventilation.

For airtightness and insulation, attention to detail is critical, Flechas says. Every possible opening in a building’s envelope must be sealed.

Passive House standards require doors and windows with an R value (the capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow) of 8.7. That means a window must have insulation, air tightness and be free of any thermal bridges, Flechas says. It also must capture more heat than it loses.

The Passive House Institute has a database of approved components, though Flechas says there are not a lot of doors and windows available in North America that are passive house-certified. He added that passive house-certified houses don’t require passive house-certified windows.

The passive house niche is growing, albeit slowly. Flechas says there are at least 44 passive buildings in Canada today. In 2010, there were zero.

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  1. I am all in favour of upgraded specifications being used. I am not in favour of the movement to bring European standards, based on European testing to Canada.
    The passive house (or whatever name one calls it) industry needs to adapt itself to Canadian testing procedures and standards and not require Canadian manufacturers to either retest or convert their existing testing.

  2. Phil, the Passive House was essentially invented in Regina for building in Canadian conditions, and the Europeans adapted the idea to Europe. And the original was in fact called the Conservation House. Oscar Flechas nailed it.

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