BCIT High Performance Building Lab
The Lab – one of only three facilities of its kind in the world – translates the theory of high performance buildings and passive house standards into real-world application.
Passive House standards set out requirements for construction that rely on “passive” techniques such as airtightness, solar loss and gain, as well as continuous ventilation to reduce energy used in heating and cooling. It’s an approach that replaces many complex mechanical systems, one of the reasons that passive house construction can reduce energy use in buildings by up to 90 percent compared to conventional methods.
A big opportunity
However, this kind of construction requires special training and skills not just among designers but among builders as well. According to Alex Hebert, BCIT Building Design & Construction-Tech Manager, “the devil is in the details. You need to have craftspeople who understand building science, and who can make decisions on-site to meet these targets.”
Buildings are responsible for nearly a quarter of Canada’s carbon pollution, according to the Pembina Institute. This represents a big opportunity to fight climate change through green construction and puts tradespeople in a critical role. It’s the reason the High Performance Building Lab focuses on accessible (one to five day) training and hands-on learning. It’s a process, says Hebert, of creating more “scientists with a hammer.”
In a growing industry, these “scientists” are needed now more than ever. From 2015 to 2017, the number of passive house projects grew from 500 to over 3,000.
“There’s a huge need to get trades people with skills upgraded,” says Hebert, who points out that there are 200,000 people working in the construction industry who need training. “If you can get every residential building in BC to close to zero emissions, it has amazing potential.”