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Photos: Canada’s largest residential Passive House is at UBC and tenants just moved in

Home of the future.

A new building on the UBC campus is part housing and part research project.

Evolve is a new Passive House-certified 110-unit faculty and staff rental building in Wesbrook Place, the first of its kind on the Vancouver campus.

The project has been in the works since 2018 and there is major excitement in multiple departments across the university as the first tenants moved in this week.

A project team consisting of UBC Properties Trust, UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA), and UBC Campus and Community Planning secured a $3.5-million grant from Natural Resources Canada to support the development of the six-storey, 103,000-square foot project which broke ground in 2020.

What is a Passive House?

Passive Homes consume up to 90 per cent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings through features such as thermal insulation, exterior shading, triple-glazed “tilt and turn” windows that increase natural ventilation, and heat recovery ventilation systems that continuously filter air. Not to mention a rooftop of solar panels that produce enough power to supply the building's common areas.

Evolve consists of studios and one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units and aims to be one of the most energy-efficient multi-family residential buildings in Canada. There is a furnished communal barbecue and play area in the courtyard and the design of the building promises to significantly reduce the utility costs associated with rentals.

Dr. Adam Rysanek, assistant professor of environmental systems at SALA, will be leading a research group that uses Evolve as a model to evaluate the lifecycle performance of Passive Homes.

“This is a rarity in Canadian urban development – to have similar-sized mid-rise comparator buildings, constructed by the same developers, on the same grounds, with the same property manager, similar tenancy profiles, and the same investment in research infrastructure,” he says in a recent press release.

Always at the 'perfect living temperature'

Most of the technology and considerations made in the design and construction of Evolve are focused on maximizing the efficiency of the power required to heat and cool the space. As a result, the building is in theory always at the perfect living temperature.

A "building envelope" eliminates cold patches and drafts by preventing air leakage, and ventilation air provided throughout the building is cooled via an energy-efficient heat pump. Sensors on operable windows and patio doors ensure maximum cool air is only supplied to residential suites when their windows are closed. The ventilation will reduce to a minimum but will not fully turn off.

Penny Martyn, green building manager at UBC Sustainability says that “research conducted on the building will be shared among the property development community to make future buildings more energy efficient.”