The North Park Passive House

First PH MURB on Vancouver Island makes case for affordability

Building the first Passive house on Vancouver Island, a duplex shared with our son Mark’s family, convinced us that the market in Victoria was ready for Passive House market condominiums. To follow through we built the North Park Passive house, a six-unit urban infill market condominium.

By Rob Bernhardt


With little marketing budget the project sold out quickly in the Spring of 2015 prior to completion, and generated a long list of potential buyers of future projects. The two-bedroom residences average 825 sq. ft. and were priced from $295,000 to $350,000 per unit.

HCMA Architecture + Design designed the North Park Passive House to combine the context of the existing neighbourhood and Passive House principles. Details give a modern flare to the aesthetic while achieving the highest energy efficiency on the globe. Deep-set windows and doors are a result of wall thickness and, simply through their inherent quality, have a strong, permanent feel, with detailing and shadow lines arising naturally from the thicker walls and substantial windows.

Contemporary detailing such as vertical slats on the sides of the balconies and horizontal slats on the  sliding bike storage  doors  distinguish the residences as modern. Accent colour on the front doors, clear finish cedar siding on the walls, and soffits focus the eye and bring attention to these  entrances, signaling that ‘neighbours live here’. The project provides a benchmark for future developments by showing what can be achieved with high quality residences designed within their architectural, urban and environmental context.

Tomorrow’s buildings will offer amazing comfort, be built to last, have ultra-low energy usage, healthy indoor air, beautiful design and long-term affordability. These are the qualities we have come to expect living a Passive House.

Moreover, Passive House construction can easily incorporate elements of sustainability in materials and renewable energy. The North Park Passive House,  for example,  uses rock wool and dense pack cellulose as sustainable insulation materials, and the engineered hardwood floors are FSC certified, while the solid surface countertops are made from recycled glass.

A photovoltaic array on the roof feeds the electrical production to the grid via the Strata corporation’s [an ownership model in BC similar to condominium ownership] smart meter. With a net metering program in effect, and very little load on that meter, the Strata corporation will receive an annual cheque from BC Hydro, helping to reduce strata fees.

In designing this project, we sought economic construction options to maintain affordability, but were not willing to compromise the quality of the envelope or the acoustical separation of the units. Given the quiet indoor atmosphere of a Passive House, extra measures were taken to minimize sound transfer between suites. Mineral wool acoustical insulation was used between floors in conjunction with concrete floor topping, plus resilient strips and double drywall on the ceilings. Cast iron drainpipes were used to minimize the sound of drainwater. Double-stud party walls acoustically separate suites, and “Quiet Rock” drywall in stairwells reduces noise transfer in those locations.

  • Project credits
    Architect HCMA Architecture + Design
    Construction Bernhardt Contracting
    Photos Ryan Hamilton
  • Materials
    Wood-frame construction with ICF foundation and EPS insulation under slab, mineral wool and cellulose insulation. Exterior window shades, and PV array on roof. HRV is a Zehnder Novus 300, and Zehnder . Windows by EuroLine .

Rob Bernhardt is with Bernhardt Contracting in Victoria.

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