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fort st john passive house

Yes, you CAN: Northernmost Passive Home with $47 power bills

By Joy WoodRise Writer
Jan 23, 2018

A young, ambitious sustainability and planning team with a vision. A city that routinely sees minus 40 degree winters. Toss in local developers that said ‘it can’t be done’, and what have you got? A recipe for the first certified Passive House in Canada’s North. 

With a moniker of ‘The Energetic City’, city planners in Fort St. John have a vision for a certain parcel of city-owned land right in town. Once complete, ‘GreenRidge Heights’ will be a sustainable neighbourhood, facing south, a truly walkable community with corner stores, bike lanes and homes that conserve energy. And to show exactly how it can be done, they built a certified Passive House.

fort st john passive house living 2

If we Can Do It, So Can You

Working with Marken Design and Consulting out of Vancouver and utilizing local and regional suppliers and labor, the city completed the North’s first certified Passive House in 2016. Built as a demo house to educate and inspire local builders and homeowners, the Passive House basically serves as a classroom to showcase new technologies, building materials, and cutting-edge energy conservation practices. 

With 2,000 sq ft of living space (2,679 sq ft external), this 3-bedroom, 2.5 bath home is two levels and universally accessible.  The home is the first building certified to Passive House and LEED Platinum Standards, the Northernmost Passive House in North America, and the first detached passive house residence in BC. It’s also rated EnerGuide 91.

fort st john passive house living room

Don’t Tell Us, Show Us

With triple pane windows in aluminum and wood, triple-paned doors with thermal inserts and exterior cladding, the passive home construction goal is to keep indoor temperature stable without using copious amounts of energy. Solar panels do all the heavy lifting, providing energy production. In the north, monthly power bills are a combination of electric and gas use. Residents spend anywhere from $200 – $600 per month to heat their homes during the winter. For the first year and a half tenant ‘caretakers’ lived in the Passive House. The monthly power bill? $47. That’s a stunning number, by anyone’s standard.

fort st john passive house staircase

Passive Homes: Built to Conserve Energy

A passive house is a house that is almost airtight. Utilizing the natural heating source of the sun, it retains heat by a cleverly designed and specially insulated building envelope. This way, it only requires a bit of energy to heat and cool. The Fort St. John Passive House surpassed all standards of airtightness with a rating of .33, going above and beyond the rigorous (and difficult to achieve) Passivhaus standard of 0.6.

fort st john passive house window

Long Term Savings

To prove that sustainable building practices are available to anyone building a home, the Passive House came in at a cost of $276 per square foot. This fits perfectly with the average regional conventional home building range of $250 – 350. The real savings, though, are in the big picture: a house that saves you hundreds of dollars per month in the years to come? That adds up.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2023-11-30T13:04:32+0000
Joy Wood

Article by:

Joy Wood

Joy grew up in the natural beauty of the North Okanagan, nestled near the foot of the Monashee Mountains. Hailing from a family of home builders, both the environment and home construction became closely intertwined in her youth. Today, she and her builder hubby are raising their family in Vancouver, where she avidly follows the current sustainable construction trends as the city aims for the title of ‘Greenest City’ by 2020.