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UBCO Skeena the first student residence in Canada to receive Passive House certification

July 6, 2022  By  Anthony Capkun

July 6, 2022 – UBC Okanagan’s $24.98-million Skeena Residence officially received Passive House certification, making it the first student residence in Canada to receive that status, says UBCO.

“This is an incredible achievement and one that our team has been working on since the building was first imagined four years ago,” said Lesley Cormack, principal and deputy vice-chancellor. “As our campus community grows and develops, we are committed to taking bold action on climate and employing the most innovative and efficient building practices is an important way to achieve those goals.”

Passive House certification is a high-performance building standard that focuses on the design, construction and operation of energy-efficient buildings. Buildings designed and constructed to this standard use up to 90% less space heating and energy consumption than conventional buildings.

Shannon Dunn, UBCO’s director, Campus Operations, explains the six-storey building—which houses 220 students—features triple-glaze windows, thick insulation, an airtight and high-efficiency building envelope, and heat recovery ventilation system. All in, the structure requires one-third the amount of energy of a typical residence building.

“Whether in the depths of winter or the blistering Okanagan summer, students often note the building temperature is incredibly stable and they hardly ever need to touch the thermostat,” Dunn adds. “That thermal stability means that the heat and air-conditioning are needed only sparingly, keeping power usage to an absolute minimum without compromising livability.”

During the height of Summer 2021’s “heat dome”, Dunn says the Skeena Residence only rose by one degree, and the chillers had no issues keeping up.

“It’s an incredible feat, considering the strain the heatwave put on infrastructure throughout BC,” says Dunn.

While the Skeena Residence was primarily built to house students, the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering is seizing the opportunity to study the long-term impacts and benefits of a Passive House building on campus.

An array of sensors was integrated into its design and construction to establish the residence as a living lab. Researchers aim to identify the energy patterns of passive residential buildings and resident behaviours to provide recommendations on the most energy-efficient uses.

“As we look to the future, we intend to learn from Skeena and employ best practices for energy reduction during building planning and construction,” Cormack added. “Best of all, our students get to live in and be a part of what is sure to be the future of sustainable construction.”

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