Affordability in Passive Housing

In 1977 the Saskatchewan Conservation House was built in Regina as a demonstration project. According to the Canadian Passive House Institute, this (right here in Canada) was the birthplace of Passive House science. Yet it was not until 1986 that the Passivhaus movement began to gain momentum within Germany.

Since then, the German building community has honed its methods over time and, at this point, there are over 20,000 Passive Houses in the world (source: CanPHI).

In its 2010 economic analysis of Quebec’s Montebello Passive House, CanPHI reports that the total incremental costs required to reach the Passive House standard within a new 1550 sq. ft. single-storey detached house were $26,000. However, due to cost-savings resulting from its remarkable energy performance (80-90% more efficient that a home built to code), $26,000 was saved in heating costs within a mere 16.5 years (assuming a modest annual fuel price increase of 3%).

Merging the Greens: looking longer at Vancouver housing affordability

It’s no news that Vancouver’s average monthly carrying costs for a new home far exceed the 30% of household income mark of housing affordability. As RBC’s Economics Research arm reported in March 2012 owning a home at current prices would still take up a huge chunk (86% in the case of a bungalow) of a typical household budget. And while it is astonishing that Canada is still the only G-8 country with neither a National Housing Strategy nor a coordinated strategy on affordable housing, we are pleased at our City’s recent reinvigorated efforts to tackle housing affordability.

As a modern residential contractor doing business in Vancouver, Econ Group is well aware of the financial challenges in not only owning a home, but also in the underlying process of its construction. We live and work in a place where labour is not cheap, construction regulations are time-consuming and climate constraints are structurally demanding. In a nut-shell, and as elementary as it may seem, what is inexpensive to build in Regina might never be inexpensive to build here in Vancouver.

However, thanks to Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Plan we now all have a shared mandate which we must meet in order to even move forward with homebuilding. From 2020 onward all new buildings constructed in Vancouver will be required to be carbon neutral in operations. With 55% of Vancouver’s greenhouse gas emissions caused by the electricity and natural gas that buildings use, this requirement will be of enormous positive impact. What’s more is that while some may see this (“yet another”) requirement by the City as a further financial burden negatively impacting the bottom-line of affordability, Econ Group sees it all as an incredible opportunity to merge the two greens: dollars and ecology.

As with all other building materials, the costs associated with the wares of environmentally responsible construction are determined by the laws of supply and demand. The quicker that early adopters (both home-owners and home-builders alike) of the carbon-neutral mandate fully embrace utilizing materials standard to Passive House and Net-Zero building methodologies, the quicker the costs will come down to light the way to a future we all can truly afford.