Vancouver is ground zero for low-carbon buildings boom in North AmericaPembina Institute launches Passive House report at green apartment project

Nov. 8, 2016

The Pembina Institute has launched a new report about ultra energy efficient Passive House buildings at The Heights in Vancouver. Photo: Stephen Hui, Pembina Institute

VANCOUVER / COAST SALISH TERRITORY — Imagine living in a home so energy efficient that your utility bill could be slashed by up to 80%. That will be the reality for residents of low-carbon, ultra energy efficient buildings, such as The Heights, under construction in Vancouver. The six-storey, 85-unit, market-rental apartment project at 388 Skeena Street aims to be Canada’s largest building certified to the internationally recognized Passive House standard.

Vancouver is poised to implement its new Zero Emissions Building Plan, and the B.C. and federal governments have signaled changes are coming to building and energy efficiency regulations and policies as part of each jurisdiction’s plans to slash carbon pollution. These changes will result in ultra energy efficient buildings becoming the norm by 2030, which will reduce the cost of utility bills for British Columbians.

Today, the Pembina Institute launched an in-depth report, Accelerating Market Transformation for High-Performance Building Enclosures. It tracks the rapid growth of Passive House buildings, assesses their costs and benefits, and sheds light on how public policy can encourage their adoption. The report notes that once the projects on the books are completed, the number of Passive House units in North America will have quadrupled, going from 500 in 2015 to over 2,000 units. A quarter of the units (600) are in Vancouver alone, making the city a hotbed for the North American expansion of these green buildings that dramatically reduce carbon pollution and energy use, enhance comfort and durability, and boost the clean economy.

The report was made possible by a Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance Innovation Fund grant from the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, a Greenest City grant from the Vancouver Foundation, and the support of the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. Its launch coincided with a media tour of The Heights, hosted by the Pembina Institute with representatives of Eighth Avenue Development Group, Peak Construction Group of Companies, Cornerstone Architecture, the City of Vancouver, and Passive House Canada.

Today’s event served as a prelude to open houses scheduled across Canada for International Passive House Days (November 10 to 13). The public is invited to visit The Heights on Saturday (November 12) between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Ultra energy efficient buildings will also be the focus of the Pembina Institute’s upcoming thought leader forum in Vancouver. Pathways to Net-Zero Buildings takes place November 28 and 29.

Quick facts

  • Buildings are responsible for nearly one-quarter of Canada’s carbon pollution, and a third of U.S. emissions.
  • By the end of 2016, North America will have nearly 2 million square feet of certified Passive House buildings, three times more than in 2015.
  • The City of Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan calls for a 90% reduction in emissions from new buildings by 2025, and zero emissions for all new buildings by 2030.
  • The Heights will use about 80% less energy than a conventional building.


“In less than 10 years, near-zero emission homes and buildings will be commonplace in Vancouver and elsewhere. Recent government initiatives — including Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building Plan and B.C.’s climate plan — call for new buildings to achieve near-zero emissions by 2030. We expect the federal framework for clean growth and climate change to complement this objective. These forward-looking policies will protect our communities, support job creation, and strengthen our low-carbon economy.”
— Karen Tam Wu, director of the buildings and urban solutions program, Pembina Institute

“City staff are making recommendations to council on November 16 to restructure the Green Building Policy for Rezonings to require buildings to meet defined greenhouse gas emission and heat loss limits. Through improved design and construction, better windows, and insulation, this building will reduce emissions and heat loss far below the proposed limits. I understand that Eighth Avenue and Peak Construction voluntarily pursued Passive House for this development because they wanted a higher quality building and because it made business sense. I think this demonstrates that Vancouver’s proposed limits, which will reduce GHG emissions from new multi-family buildings by over 50%, will not be too difficult to achieve.”
— Sean Pander, green building manager, City of Vancouver

“The number of Passive House units in North America has quadrupled in the last year, from 500 to over 2,000 units, and a quarter of these are in Vancouver alone. As industry capacity develops and more builders get on board, we can expect the added cost of building to near-zero emission standards to fall or even disappear. Factor in lower bills for energy and maintenance, and green buildings will increasingly become an affordable housing option.”
— Dylan Heerema, analyst, Pembina Institute


Download the report: Accelerating Market Transformation for High-Performance Building Enclosures: State of market, policy developments, and lessons learned from the Passive House movement

Learn more about The Heights and Eighth Avenue Development Group:

Find photos for editorial use (to be posted later today): Pembina Institute on Flickr

Join the conversation on Twitter: #PassiveHouseYVR @Pembina


Stephen Hui
Communications Lead, Pembina Institute
Tw: @StephenHui


Blog: Taking green buildings to the next level in B.C.

Op-ed: A blueprint for quality buildings and green jobs for B.C. and beyond

Open letter: Canada needs a bold national action plan for energy efficient buildings

Interactive map: British Columbia Green Buildings Map


Our perspectives to your inbox.

The Pembina Institute endeavors to maintain your privacy and protect the confidentiality of any personal information that you may give us. We do not sell, share, rent or otherwise disseminate personal information. Read our full privacy policy.