1st Passive House for South Surrey, British Columbia, #PassiveHouse

An exciting new Passive House project ready to break ground in the Lower Mainland, BC

by Noel McNally


In Mid 2011 Marken Projects was approached by a family from Surrey, BC, to design a house for them that would have a strong legacy for their family (their daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren). The Hotells envisioned a house that could use less energy, have great access to light, be composed of materials that are sourced from sustainable sectors and provide a healthy indoor living environment. The Passive House model met all their desires in a new family home and more.

Design of this innovative building in South Surrey began in the summer and through close dialogue and interaction with the clients to incorporate their wish list items, the building developed through the later months of the year to a completed design and building permit ready project by Christmas.

The client’s desire to gain as much natural light into their home as well the passive solar gain benefit meant they were open to a design move that is not the norm of the East-West orientation of these 137’x60’ lots. Typically we see houses adhere to the front yard setback then maximize the footprint across the width of the lot.


Through some quick massing studies to see the solar shading effect of the neighbor to the south (and potential for the neighbor to build a 2 storey residence) we decided to increase the sideyard setback to the south to allow greater penetration of sun and light and avoid any overshadowing in the future. This also benefits the client by getting a little south deck and vegetable growing patch for the ground floor residents.

The clients desire to have three generations live under one roof reduces down their ecological footprint, as a family such as this would normally be living in separate houses.  There are a lot tangible and maybe not so tangible benefits to this. Less car journeys for the grandparents and grandchildren to meet and play/babysit, social benefit of having family close by to provide care saving health care costs/demand- especially with the generation that are advancing in age, to name but a few.


The Passive House design brief called for the younger family to be housed on the upper floor with the grandparents on the ground with the direct access to the garden whilst providing both units with access to common rooms on the ground floor like guest bedroom, office and laundry. The living spaces are stacked to the south to take advantage of light and solar heat gain whilst the bedrooms are pushed to the north. The ground floor opens up on the east and south to extend the living spaces into these adjoining garden spaces- something that was very important to the client. The upper floor has access to a south and west facing deck that also has direct access back down to the garden- a feature invaluable to a family with small children.

 Fast Facts:

Total Sqf: ~ 3,500

  • Design heat load: 12 Kwh/m2/year
  • Design max. energy demand for heating:7,850 BTU/h/W
  • Design Air tightness: less than 0.6 -1 ACH
  • High Performance Heat Recovery Ventilation: 93% efficiency
  • Triple Pane Wood Windows: U-value 0.8; SHGC 52%
  • Prefabricated Panelized Building Shell: R-value 39 (Walls), R 50 (Roof)

 The project will also incorporate the following:

  • Rainwater collection
  • Low flow fixtures throughout
  • Solar hot water panes and drain water heat recovery
  • Native landscaping and permeable paving where necessary
  • Lumber from FSC certified sources
  • Flooring and millwork from sustainable sources
  • Regionally sourced materials where possible and appropriate
  • Use of recycled materials where possible
  • No VOC to be used

Marken Projects have recently completed the Building Permit Drawing Set for this Passive House, we expect construction to start spring 2012. Watch this space for more updates as the construction starts on this innovative project for South Surrey.


Project Team:

Design Studio: Marken Projects Inc., Vancouver: www.markenprojects.com

Prefab High Performance Shell: BC Passive House, Williamslake: www.bcpassivehouse.com

Mechanical Design/Consulting: ReNuEnergy, Edmonton: www.renubuildingscience.com/