Episode 5 – Andrew Peel (Peel Passive House) – Curtain Wall Conversations
October 25, 2022
Curious what kind of conversations happen behind the scenes at one of the world’s leading curtain wall manufacturers? In Curtain Wall Conversations, GlasCurtain Managing Director Peter Dushenski shares the inside perspective on this fascinating industry through a series of in-depth conversations with industry leaders. Together, we’ll explore new ideas of what’s possible with glazed facades.
In Episode 5, Peter dives deep with Andrew Peel. Andrew is the Founder and Managing Principal of Peel Passive House Consulting in Toronto, one of Canada’s leading Passive House certifiers, educators, and consultants. Focusing on high-performance residential, commercial, and institutional projects, and he and his team bring decades of professional and academic expertise in low-carbon construction and sustainable energy.
As one of the Founding Members of Passive House Canada (PHC), Andrew was also a key contributor to the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) that we’ve come to know so well today. He is also widely published in journals and magazines such as Passive House Buildings – now Passive House Accelerator – and a frequent lecturer at events around the world including The International Passive House (iPHA) Conference, Passive House Canada (PHC) conference, and the Passive House Network (PHN) conference in the US.
We had a great time chatting with Andrew about:
- New developments in the National Building Code (NBC) of Canada
- The World’s First Passive House Car Dealership
- Current supply chain disruptions
- Passive House education and impacts
- The limits of mechanical systems relative to investments in better building envelopes
- Soaring energy prices in Europe and around the world, and its impact on resiliency
- And so much more!
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our previous episodes of Curtain Wall Conversations:
Episode 1 with Phil Parker from Integral Group
Episode 2 with Alex Worden from StudioTJOA
Episode 3 with Chad Howden from Blackcomb Facade Technology
Episode 4 with Brandon Gemme from RJC
Still curious about fibreglass-framed curtain wall systems? Check out our other videos on our YouTube page. Previous topics include Passive House, Embodied Carbon, “Combustibility”, Installation Partner FAQ, and more!
1. Intro [0:00]
2. Fire Testing and New Developments in the National Building Code (NBC) of Canada [9:30]
3. World’s First Passive House Car Dealership in Alberta [17:14]
4. Current Supply Chain Disruptions [21:10]
5. Passive House Education, Impact, and Inspiration [24:48]
6. Investing in Better Building Envelopes, Condensation Resistance in Healthcare [29:29]
7. World’s First Passive House Hospital in Germany, Soaring Energy Prices, and Resiliency
Hi there, I’m Peter, Managing Director of GlasCurtain. We’re a Canadian manufacturer of fibreglass-framed curtain wall systems for triple glazed applications. And today, we have episode 5 in our Curtain Wall Conversations series, where we talk to industry experts to explore new ideas of what’s possible with glazed facades. In this episode, we’re talking to Andrew Peel, Founder and Managing Principal of Peel Passive House Consulting in Toronto, one of Canada’s leading Passive House certifiers, educators, and consultants. Focusing on high-performance, residential, commercial and institutional projects, Andrew and his team bring decades of professional and academic expertise in low-carbon construction and sustainable energy. As one of the founding members of Passive House Canada, Andrew was also a key contributor to the Passive House Planning Package or PHPP, that we’ve come to know so well today. He is also widely published in magazines such as Passive House Buildings, now Passive House Accelerator, and a frequent lecture at events around the world, including the international Passive House Conference, Passive House Canada Conference and the Passive House Network Conference in the United States. This is a conversation you won’t want to miss. We had a great time chatting with Andrew about his origin story, recent updates to the National Building Code of Canada, the limits of mechanical systems compared to investment in better buildings envelopes, the impact of soaring energy prices in Europe and elsewhere, and so much more. We hope you enjoy this wide-ranging conversation as much as we did.
PETER: Well, thanks very much for joining us on Curtain Wall Conversations episode 5. I know you and I have known each other for a couple of years now, so I really appreciate you making the time today.
ANDREW: Hey Peter
PETER: Hey Andrew, how are you?
ANDREW: Ugh man, I just got off call with the city of Toronto. I’ve got this application for my own EnerPhit retrofit and it’s just been a struggle to get through the city. I’m a little flustered, although it was a positive end to the thing and actually something potentially bigger in terms of them embedding EnerPHit as a caveat to getting a bit of density. Because they’re worried about this project it’s asking for a bit more density than they’re comfortable with and they’re like well and part of it 12% of this is due to exterior installation we’re adding like we’re increasing the density by adding information right? But it’s not like we’re creating more living space or anything so…
PETER: No and I’m pretty sure like the City of Vancouver is making exceptions for that. In their bill, I don’t know if you’re as familiar with the building codes in BC, but I seem to recall them making some kind of allowances like if your walls are a little bit thicker, it’s okay, we’ll give you the extra room, right?
ANDREW: Yeah, that’s right. The Vancouver policy is well ahead and I’ve been pointing to them for that, so it looks like there’s some good promise that we can be informed by that work in Vancouver to kind of draft something for Toronto that they can, you know, another obstacle hopefully out of the way.
PETER: Yeah, definitely, definitely. It’s funny you should mention Vancouver is, you know, very much leading the way, or the BC sort of energy step code is leading the way. I had, in one of our earlier conversations, I think episode 3 with Chad Howden from Blackcomb Glass, they do a lot of RyKo products. And, yeah, you know, I think there’s so much that the rest of the country can learn from what BC is doing.You know, I’d like to come back and sort of get into your your origin story a little bit as well but maybe we can sort of start with where we are today in the industry. What does leadership look like in Canada? Obviously you guys are based in Ontario. What does it look like at today from the perspective of Ontario?
ANDREW: Yeah I mean things are progressing, we’ve got a lot of great activity. It’s another hotbed I’d say for Passive House, quite a few affordable housing organizations engaging with Passive House, so actually developing new construction, there’s even retrofit underway on a few projects including some we’re involved with. So, actually a really exciting area for Passive House, is really, is in Ontario. So, I think it’s a developing market, some good opportunity, yeah.
PETER: Awesome, well then let’s take this opportunity then to talk about your origin story. I’ve listened to a couple of your other sort of podcast interviews recently and they sort of started with, you know, you’re at school, you were doing electrical engineering, you spent some time in Germany, you spent some time in the UK. But, you know, would we be bold enough to even go back earlier and say, “How did Andrew Peel get interested in, you know, in the world of engineering and science?”, you know, what were you like as a kid?
ANDREW: (Laughter) What was I like as a Kid? I think I was inspired by my brothers. I mean, my one brother did computer engineering. And they’re- he’s 12 years older than me, so that was a clear example of a mentor and role model for me. So, I think that probably sparked the interest in engineering. Um, I didn’t actually know my dad very well. I hadn’t seen him since I was young, um, but he actually, he was a bit of part entrepreneur, part tinkerer, you know, he got into electronics as well. I remember, even as a kid, visiting him and being down in the basement and he had this TV open, you know, Cathode-ray tube, and he’s like “Don’t touch that.” (Laughter) “Okay.”, One of the few memories I have of him. So, I think that, you know, these things you don’t really actually you don’t even really think about too much, but you just, you know when you asked the question, I’m like okay, yeah, there’s kind of, there’s some seeds there that get planted right, that kind of yeah, do affect the course of your life.
PETER: I think every engineering family has a story of “We took this thing apart and we had no idea how to get it back together.” And, it is funny how these things do run through families. So, you obviously went through high school, went onto University and, sorry, you did study electrical engineering, rather than, um, I don’t know, you didn’t study energy modelling, you didn’t study structural engineering. Um, so, how did how did you go from from electrical engineering to, you know, to starting your own consultancy?
ANDREW: Right, so, um, I developed an interest in renewable energy which is a very clear connection to electrical engineering, right? And, I wanted to really get into the industry and this is back 2004 or 2005 probably, as a kind of initial interest, right? But, there wasn’t really anything happening in Canada at the time or, it was a cottage industry, you know, the odd cottage would get that installed, or, you know very little happening. And, I remember going to the Solar Energy Society of Canada’s annual conference and it was a small little thing and they had about four vendors and you talk to them like, “Hey, any job opportunities?”, and they just laugh at you, right? Not in a mean way, but they’re just like “No, there’s not enough going on.” So, um, I was like, okay, I’ve got to look, um, how do I get into this industry and I started to look at educational opportunities as well, very limited in North America at the time as well. You know, you could go do primary research, um you know, so, studying and developing the efficiency of solar cells and, my girlfriend at the time actually, she was living with somebody who was doing a masters in solar energy at the University of Toronto; Just chatting with her one day about it and she’s just like, “I’ve spent two years working, developing the efficiency of this solar cell,” you know, particular technology I don’t remember what is was, and she’s like, “I’ve improved it by 0.1% in my two years time.” And I’m like, “I don’t want to do that.” (Laughter) Anyways, so, I looked further afield and found opportunities in Europe and found a master’s program in renewable energy it’s been around since the late 80s, well established, no one would have heard of it outside of the area but. So, a part of me I’m like, I’m taking a bit of a chance going here, just some small, small, uh, town or city in Germany, but, you know, this is what I want to do, so, let’s take a chance.
PETER: And so, you went from that program but there’s still a gap, I mean, you didn’t come fresh out of your master’s program and start your own consultancy, did you?
ANDREW: Um, so, how I veered into building energy efficiency is finding an opportunity at the Passive House Institute in Germany. Just applying to various organizations, and they, yeah they had an opportunity actually working on their software – Passive House Planning Package. I helped develop the solar gains algorithms that, um, many people don’t enjoy (laughter). One aspect of PHPP so,
PETER: It’s your fault Andrew, it’s all your fault!
ANDREW: Exactly, yeah exactly. Um, so, yeah, so I ended up working there for for a while, and, uh, and then just moved – I got an opportunity to work in the UK for a company called Building Research Establishment, large organization, well, large, you know, a few several hundred people, um, just doing anything to do with buildings, right? They’ve got a building called “Burn Hall” where they just burn stuff (Laughter).They throw it in and you know, fire testing, and all sorts of stuff.
2. FIRE TESTING AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NATIONAL BUILDING CODE (NBC) OF CANADA
PETER: As a manufacturer of “combustible” you know, building envelope products, we do fire testing too. And actually, we’re uh heading down to Intertek in Texas in like two weeks to do more fire testing, and what a pain in the butt all that fire testing is! It’s obviously super important but it’s unfortunate that we don’t have more of those kinds of burn facilities. There’s one facility on the North American continent that will do this kind of testing. There used to be one, actually near Ottawa but anyways, we could use more of these kinds of burn facilities.
ANDREW: Oh, right, totally, yeah. I mean, you get that even with other types of products, like ventilation systems like being able to test certain technologies like there may be one lab if that, right? Or sometimes yeah you have to go to Europe or somewhere else, right? So, yeah, I can appreciate as a manufacturer, it being an expensive endeavour to ship your product and engineers or whatever to different places, right?
PETER: You know and Intertek, you know, they just charge monopoly rents, right? It’s like a hundred thousand dollars to do a test and, you know, thankfully, you know, you hope you pass the test of course, and thankfully, we have, you know, we have great support, we have Alberta innovates is a big you know sponsor and supporter of ours, so, thankfully we don’t have to bear the entire burden ourselves, it would be too much for a company of our size. But yeah, it is a super important test at the end of the day, we do want to demonstrate safety, we do want to demonstrate, you know, and sort of like increase the confidence. Now, now it’s interesting, I don’t know if you saw the recent updates to the National Building Code of Canada that Al Jaugelis had recently published for Glass Canada, that at least for non-contiguous sort of stretches of “combustible” you know, frames or sashes for you know, on non-combustible building envelopes, you know, CAN/ULC-S134 testing isn’t required anymore, as of NBC 2020, which is, you know, of course, being that rollout of adoption will be province by province over the next, you know year or two or whatever it is. But, yeah, I mean, yeah, because, you know, once they started going back in the archives, “I’m like why is it that we considered aluminum non-combustible in the first place?” And it like turned out to just be some like off the cuff random comment in the 70s that someone was like uh I don’t think it’s, um, you know, is aluminum actually combustible?Like maybe, maybe not, and then they just like, kind of threw it in there. Aluminum can combust too, like at a certain temperature uh, you know, uh, I can assure you, especially now with all the the polyamide thermal breaks and everything else we’re doing to sort of, you know, improve the thermal performance of aluminum. Yeah, it becomes, you know, more and more combustible. It doesn’t make it dangerous, per say, um, it doesn’t make it a risk to like safety, um, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have, you know, flame propagation from floor to floor, but the same is true of “combustible” uh, you know, sort of systems like uh like a like a fibreglass frame.
ANDREW: I mean, you’re coming back to, or raising a a key point about you know, what’s the purpose of, you know, testing, of requirements, building codes, or national regulations or whatever it is like, what are you trying to actually achieve with them? And a). does the underlying or do the underlying requirements actually achieve that? And b). are they actually up to date and relevant? Yeah, it’s a continual evolution of learning and, uh mistakes made and corrections or whatever but we, you know, we get this in another – bring up ventilation again, just as an example, where you know there’s there’s all sorts of requirements around that and around sizing and capacity and stuff, and in some ways that makes sense but when you look in practice operationally like well these systems are never being operated at those design rates, yet if you’re having to run them at those rates you’re just needlessly wasting energy, you know, potentially affecting air quality, which ironically, you know, dry air, too much air coming into the space, right? Although I know that’s a big topic with Covid and air exchange. But, it’s just yeah, it’s like what are you trying to achieve and how can you achieve it? Just because building codes prescript- today a building code might not be correct anymore, and, there may be alternative ways of doing it but sometimes those ways of proving it are too onerous for uh, manufacturers or engineers.
PETER: And, it’s a long process. I was having this conversation with a journalist, John Bleasby, out of uh, out of Ontario recently as well: Is it kind of crazy, or is it kind of sensible that it takes a decade plus to make even a minor change to the code, right? Like, you know, even this minor change to this one little bit of combustibility in the code, took a decade and counting. And then, it still doesn’t even you know accommodate for mass timber buildings, that’s still going to be the next iteration of the building code which is going to be another five years and another couple years to adopt and yet, we were building, you know, mass timber buildings quite safely 100 some years ago right? There’s a lot more of them in Ontario than than here in Alberta Um, but we should touch on Alberta too because I know you guys did, um, the very cool uh Scott Subaru project halfway uh between uh where I’m located in Edmonton and where we do our fabrication actually in Calgary. But, uh, you know, mass timber has been around for you know a long time, um and was considered to be quite safe for, uh, a long time. But, uh, do you have much uh influence on are you involved much in in codes and code development? I know there was conversation as well, speaking about Passive House, uh there was a discussion about making air tightness testing mandatory in Ontario? That’s something obviously we’d love to see across the country. But are you involved in those conversations at all Andrew?
ANDREW: Uh, varying degrees and um, I mean, you know, as a business owner I only have so much time to, you know, contribute to all and there’s so many different initiatives and different jurisdictions right? And we work in a variety, you know, across Canada down in the States even, you know, in Europe, Australia, right? Um but are you know predominantly working in Canada and um, and yeah, and we’d love to support all the um, you know, especially myself with deeper technical knowledge and yet, yeah there’s only so much, so you’ve got to pick and choose like “Okay, where where is my time best um, used, and where can we leverage?” You know, that’s why I’m glad, you know, I was a founding director of Passive House Canada because we saw like we need a National Organization to really help drive drive these conversations and get like more politically savvy folks involved because it’s not just technical discussions, you know, the political side so and, you know, that’s not my strength or background or whatever, so um, that’s where I think they’re, you know, that organization um is doing some great work right? And where I can really lend best support especially in a technical side, I’ll step in. So, one of the things we’re actually currently looking at, CSA-439. Sorry, I’m kind of stuck with ventilation even though it’s not-
PETER: No, it’s great
ANDREW: curtain walls, but it’s it’s just an example it’s kind of very, very prescient for me right now because we’re having challenges on that side, um, so this standard CSA-439 deals with, you know, package, kind of residential size ventilation systems. And, there’s barriers there in terms of um, you know, installation of, because there’s certain requirements and the city of Ontario building code points to that and has certain requirements. And, we have trouble, uh, installing Passive House Certified ventilation systems because of certain requirements that are laid down there. So we’re going to be working to try and address those issues that are acting as obstacles right?
3. WORLDS FIRST PASSIVE CAR DEALERSHIP IN ALBERTA
PETER: Obviously Passive House and you know hopefully one day we’ll be able to, uh, sort of spread the word that Passive House isn’t just for houses you know there’s definitely that uh that sort of like conception and of course the name can be potentially misleading. But we’re definitely starting to see a lot more creative, uh, you know sort of non-residential applications, um, and maybe now is a good time to come back to uh, to the Scott Subaru example. Um, and, maybe you can, uh, help discuss, you know, it’s been a couple of years since that project was completed, as a percentage of the projects that you’re consulting on, are you seeing the non-residential percentage grow? Or, is it kind of fixed and, of course, the whole pie is growing
you’re working on more projects, I’m sure, than you, you know, were working on two and five years ago, um but as a percentage, is the non-residential, uh, growing? Or, is it relatively fixed? And, about what is that percentage?
ANDREW: I don’t know if I’ve looked at it from a residential versus non-residential perspective. Certainly, the number of projects we’re working on and then our residential spaces increased, it may have increased percentage-wise for the work we do. We’ve got a large, six-story office EnerPHit retrofit in Toronto, um, with an organization, I’m not privy yet to talk openly about it like details but they’re a provincial organization that is, you know, financially savvy, let’s put it that way, uh, so, if they’re saying “Hey, EnerPHit makes sense, financially,” you know, um, then, that’s a, to me a clear indicator, okay, you know, there’s, you know, a good kind of commercial sense or commercial case for Passive House on non-residential buildings right? And this is a retrofit too, so, chalked with those kinds of challenges that come with a retrofit, right?
PETER: And, and the Scott Subaru, um for those who, for those who haven’t heard about this wonderful project yet, um, it was uh at the time, the first ever Passive House certified car dealership, uh in the world. And, I think you mentioned on some other programs and interviews that it was the hardest project you’d ever worked on, at the time, um, is that still true?
ANDREW: Um, uh, possibly, I mean, this office retrofit, uh, is a challenge because you open up, you know, you start to demolish, you get all these sorts of interesting conditions. The HVAC requirements on the Subaru car dealership were uh were challenging. These, these are just a different level of challenge, so, um, this could possibly be, you know, overtaking the Subaru dealership. The Subaru had a lot of novelty in terms of “Well, how do you, how can we source overhead doors?” Um, I mean, at the time there wasn’t really um, any like curtain wall. I think you guys existed, but we weren’t even aware of you, right?
PETER: No, and we didn’t have and we weren’t certified yet at that time either when you guys were in design. Because when did that building open? 2019?
ANDREW: I think, yeah, it completed and opened 2019 I believe, yeah.
PETER: Okay, um so you know you’re designing in 2016-17, you know, kind of thing, ’18 maybe at the latest. But, uh, it was actually, I think, an instrumental project um, in terms of us sort of developing a business case and a thesis for, you know, how there’s going to be demand for a cold climate certified Passive House uh curtain wall. And, uh, you know, in addition to, of course, you know, where we saw building codes going with, uh, BC energy step code. Um, but in general you know we saw, uh, an opportunity because of you know, um, I’m trying to remember actually, which curtain wall, was it the Rainier system you guys had used on that one, or?
ANDREW: Rexona, was it, I think?
PETER: Okay, sorry, Rexona.
ANDREW: I think, yeah.
4. CURRENT SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTIONS
PETER: Obviously, you you guys work with, uh, with a lot of
imported, uh, products and systems. Um, have you found that over the course of Covid and with our current supply chain challenges, uh, not that even domestic manufacturers haven’t been affected by supply chain challenges, uh, to be sure. But have you seen much change in the last
you know two years, um, in terms of uh, importing products and lead times, um, or prices?
It’s obvious, the Passive House system relies on a lot of imported um, imported products, right? At this time, in this early phase of adoption?
ANDREW: Yeah, I mean, that’s certainly gradually changing, uh, with more and more manufacturers especially in the window and now curtain wall, uh, space, right? Designed and manufactured, right, I think that’s key. Designed for Canadian situations right? Um, you know, because even a few years ago talking to window manufacturers that were importing like profiles could be PVC profiles they would form into windows they’re actually asking eventually after enough experience they’re asking the the profile manufacturer, “Hey, can you adjust this we need this for our particular types of projects we’re working on, right” So, taking existing European system but trying to modify it right? So, yeah, yeah in terms of pri- uh like lead times have definitely been affected I don’t know if I mean it varies product to product, right? Um, so, yeah some some products we’ve been relying on now, yeah, 20-week lead times, you know, windows you’re like okay well you got to really re-plan how you integrate the windows and you know, like do you make decisions on windows before, you know, taking rough opening measurements on things and you’ve got to build around the windows now, right?
It’s like, switch how you do things. That’s where I think prefab’s an interesting you know potential way of addressing these things where it’s like well if you got more precision with prefab can you, uh, you know, can you get the prefab manufacturer to buil- preorder the windows, get them to build it around the exact dimensions you’re going to have from the window supplier get them shipped early, uh, yeah, So, you know, there’s challenges again. I don’t know if it’s unique to products for importing, yeah it’s just, um, and, I’m trying to think if it’s ultimately disrupted any of our projects that kind of import, uh, side of things. I don’t think our projects have been too badly affected.
PETER: That’s, that’s great to hear because of course that’s, you know, one of the, uh, you know, one of the challenges, I think, inherent in trying to bring, um, you know a building standard that was designed for a different continent, um, into into our continent; There’s different boundary conditions that we calculate in North America, as I talked, you know, previously with, uh, Brandon Gemme from RJC, the glass thicknesses, the overall thickness of glass units tends to be much larger in uh in Europe, um, just as an example of some of the the challenges um because their boundary conditions are at zero degrees celsius and our boundary conditions for calculations are usually at minus 18. It was great to see at the Passive House Conference in Victoria this this last spring um, you know, some conversations about saying well, maybe we don’t need, you know, for North America for Canadian, you know, products, uh, or projects, I should say, we don’t need those you know 56 millimeter thick, you know, IGUs, we can just use our standard 44 millimetre thick, uh, triple-glazed IGUs, uh with 6 millimetre glass, and that was actually will be better suited and then we can source the glass locally too because, you know, domestic IGU suppliers have that that half inch 13 mil spacer and they don’t have to you know have the glass made in Spain or something like that.
5. PASSIVE HOUSE EDUCATION, IMPACT, AND INSPIRATION
PETER: But, in terms of, sort of building out this network, building out this, uh, this Foundation that is the Passive House world. Um, obviously you guys are very involved in education, um, as well. You know, why isn’t it enough that we just certify projects? Why isn’t that enough? Why can’t we just certify projects? Why do we, why is it important to also certify people?
ANDREW: Um, uh, so, I think that we all have basic fundamental knowledge, uh, to me it’s like creating a common language that we can discuss and understand and literally we’ve had you know we do private group training for you know larger our large architects, engineering firms, construction management firms and, it’s interesting, the impact we see um not just on the project we’re working, because often it’ll be in a project context of a project they’ll train up a whole bunch of, you know, 20 of their team members. Um, but we hear anecdotes of like you know people who’ve taken the training, they’re working on other projects, they’re like they’re already, now there’s seeing things differently like “Oh, thermal bridging, okay, hey, oh we should adjust this on this on this other project that’s not going for Passive House, but now that’s just going to lead to a better building over there we’re not going to call it, it’s not going to meet Passive House performance, but it’s going to be better than it was, right? So, there’s a lot of knock-on effects I mean even coming back not education but exposure; you saw the Red Deer Subaru as making, as helping you build the business case “Oh, I can build, uh, a certified Passive House Curtain Wall system for cold climates. Like, there’s going to be a market for this, I’m going to go do it.” Like, I didn’t, I didn’t even think about that.I think of inspiring other car dealership owners to build, but funny enough we haven’t had the next project yet, surprisingly, I thought that would uh but it but actually-
PETER: Has the Scott family not planned to do more?
ANDREW: But the one individual owner doesn’t just build, they’re not building one per year, right?
PETER: Every couple of years.
ANDREW: Yeah, there’s planning, there’s stuff, right? So, but, and we’ve had conversations with a couple folks whether it’s an architect firm that works on, um, car dealerships or you know, uh, another, you know, family or whatever, um but sometimes you know these decisions aren’t necessary business business owners aren’t making quick decisions necessarily on these kind of investments, right? So, they’re longer conversations, um, but that, my kind of initial my thinking is, “Oh, this will inspire other buildings of this type”, not Inspire manufacturers like you to like, build a product that’s kind of needed for this kind of, uh, building area, say okay, yeah, right? So, no, it’s great, that’s great feedback actually, you know, widens my kind of perspective on things.
PETER: I think that really speaks to the importance of, you know, and like you said beacon projects, you know, these spotlight projects that, you know, they have ripples that we can’t always even anticipate and, um and, yeah that, you know, it was projects like Scott Subaru and, uh, you know, that helped us, yeah, we then made a five-year investment and you know, untold dollars, but you know a five-year time investment in sort of going back to basics looking at our frame and saying okay how can we improve this what is it that these freaking crazy Europeans are doing? Like, what are they doing that we’re not? What are they seeing that we’re not seeing? What could we learn from them? And, you know really sort of deconstructing some of the European certified systems and figuring out it’s like, okay we have this material advantage- if you just take a raw fibreglass to raw aluminum, raw fibreglass will conduct 200 times less it’s like how are they able to meet these criteria?Um and yeah, that really helped to you know sort of inspire and, you know, send us down a rabbit hole that, uh, that uh, will be really sort of like completed with this this fire testing we’re doing but that’s sort of the last piece of the puzzle we’ve done, you know, all the condensation air water testing, um and uh, and, sort of got this system uh into production. Um, but uh, but, yeah, it’s a, it’s a journey and then now you know, it’s into production, you know, commercialized, now we have to get it into projects, right? And like, that’s the next step is, um, is finding the opportunities for cold climate uh projects and we’ve started to you know just this last three, four months started to bid some of those and we’ll see how those go, of course, uh, but, uh, but it’s it’s a journey right, it’s a journey and uh, but it starts with sometimes things you would never expect.
6. INVESTING IN BETTER BUILDING ENVELOPES, CONDENSATION RESISTANCE IN HEALTHCARE
ANDREW: So, yeah, you’re going to pay more for your product versus a conventional double-paned non-thermally broken window, right? Like, that’s just a given, right? You’ve got to spend some more money, um, but one of the things we struggled with on Subaru, like until you came around there was no cold climate certified curtain wall, so, we used good quality like German, uh, I think it was German product um, but it wasn’t rated for the climate, so, guess what? We’ve got to wash the wall in heat to offset any comfort issues. Well, we’re bringing our you know mechanical equipment big distribution there, so we, you know, we end up spending more in mechanicals than we need to so, uh, and we actually, HVAC costs, especially now, have gone up, uh, quite a bit of late, right? So, you know, it’s a, uH, galvanizing us further to say okay how do we simplify the HVAC, um, solutions that we’re providi- putting into these buildings? But if we don’t have the envelope components to support that, well, it’s it’s, it’s a non-conversation right?
ANDREW: For sure, yeah, and uh I mean there’s a whole knock on effects of the larger systems as you said with maintenance I mean and we’re trying to decarbonize right? And, generally that means electrification, right? And obviously, depends on your jurisdiction how clean the electricity is, but the the push towards heat pumps, and, you know, it is a challenging cold climates, uh, like Red Deer, uh heat pump, it really taxes the functionality of heat pumps so, generally, we need backup in in these climates and, well, okay if you if you have this big heat pump system now, um well you’ve you’ve got to have an equivalent size backup, right? Whereas if we were able to simplify, downsize, all that, well, okay, that we still need the back up until the technology continues to, you know, improve and be able to work at the the the cold design temperatures um… But yeah now, now we can downsize the backup, you know, that could impact transformer size on a on a, you know, if the building’s big enough and, you know, it needs a transformer, right? And those are material costs, right? So, there’s a whole, you know, that’s why um, you know, just looking at the cost of one item and it’s so you know many cost consultants, developers, building owners look at this line by line, like oh that’s an expensive item, let’s get rid of it in value engineering, right?But they’re not looking at the the wider context and the knock-on impacts of making those changes, right?
PETER: Yeah, absolutely. Uh, the- you know, one of these days I’ll, we’ll have to do a podcast or a blog post or something just on value engineering, uh because I think that’s uh, it’s um I think even just adding the label engineering makes it sound like it’s so, so scientific and sophisticated when really like you said it can be excessively reductive, um, and it can lose the forest for the trees. But, um but yeah so one of these days we’ll we’ll have you back and we’ll do a whole conversation because I’m sure you see that, um, on a lot of projects.
ANDREW: For sure, yeah and then definitely this interplay of envelope versus mechanical; we got a condo project in Ontario where you know the developers pressed with costs so it’s like okay, you know, should I downgrade to uh, double pane windows? We’re like, well the HVAC system was designed so we don’t have to bring ductwork to the windows, if you swap you might you might net cost you more to make the switch, right?
PETER: Right, yeah, and uh, that’s that just shows how, how interconnected all of these systems are. Um, because, you know, like you said, you know, all that error washing over the windows, you know, the size of mechanical systems and ventilation, the interconnectedness of everything. We see the healthcare market as being like kind of primed to have those conversations. And they’re keeping their building 50, 100 years, they care very deeply about maintenance costs, um, they’re not necessarily going for Passive House, but, um, you know, they care about relative humidity. Um, and if you can have, uh, you know, 35 percent interior relative humidity at minus 30 without condensation, that’s cool! If you can have 50 percent interior relative humidity at minus 18 with no condensation, that’s pretty cool! You know, we think there’s a strong uh, a strong sort of like alignment um, but uh, of course, you know, that market you know moves very slowly, right? You know to design and build a new healthcare facility hospital whatever it is, it’s like a 10 to 15 year process.
7. WORLD’S FIRST PASSIVE HOUSE HOSPITAL IN GERMANY, SOARING ENERGY PRICES, AND RESILIENCY
ANDREW: Oh, by the way, the first Passive House Hospital got certified in Germany recently, yeah.
PETER: Where in Germany?
ANDREW: Uh, is it Frankfurt? I could have that wrong, um, but yeah you can you search Passive House Hospital uh Germany or go to the Passive House Institute’s website, it’ll be one of their kind of highlight news items
PETER: Oh cool, yeah, well I’ll have to.
ANDREW: You can drop that in the healthcare conference “hey look!”
ANDREW: Right? Get the plan
ANDREW: Plant the seeds, right?
PETER: Totally, totally, like and especially in a world where, um, you know, especially like go figure that the Passive House sort of system, is sort of, took off in Germany, and now like look at the energy price in Germany. I don’t know if you’ve been following like, the whole, uh, sort of knock on- talk about knock-on effects of the Ukraine war and the Russian invasion and shutting off of Nord Stream 2, they’re insane. It’s like, it’s like five times what we’re paying for energy
PETER: Or more. Uh like their gas, even if their gas for the fuel is like nine dollars a gallon or something it’s like three dollars a litre or
ANDREW: I mean an interesting tidbit uh, I’d heard from um colleague in Germany about, you know, Passive House was developing but as soon as it came out of its niche and started to have some influence, um, I understand the energy the energy companies, well the energy companies started pay attention like, “Oh, this is against our interest.” So, uh, the political winds changed a bit um, and, uh, so, they kind of dampened their energy efficiency progression in Germany. Uh, Which they’re only going to be paying for, right? So uh it’s and that happened in the UK as well although that was uh house builders that protested, not the energy companies but um, yeah, um, there’s a whole thing in the UK about that big somewhat scandal really around that. Um, yeah, and the UK I mean they had now a few, you know, over a decade, you know, a decade, no, that yeah, well I don’t know how many years it would have been now, um of homes that could have been zero carbon and they aren’t, they’re they’re a bit better than they would have been 15 years ago and uh, yeah people with higher energy bills now like they doubled I think not overnight but like in a short period the energy, yeah it’s crazy. So, talk about non-resiliency, right?
PETER: And yeah, and I think that increasingly it will it will not just be um this sort of like center-left sustainability kind of mindset, but it’ll be a center-right, geopolitical independence, right? I think that then that there’s alignment there um, and I think that’s going to be a great place for the future for, you know, what we’re doing you know collectively you and I is that, you know, there’s it’s not going to be as for one-sided like there will be alignment between sort of like business interests and sustainability interests and political interests, I think, that uh, you know, this Passive House movement is going to, you know, increasingly show it’s it’s breadth of ability that it’s, it’s resilient.
ANDREW: Yeah, because I mean, with this um office retrofit, I mean, it was a surprise to us but it was the first time it came out where, uh I think any costing but this was a retrofit where it was like oh Passive House isn’t going to cost you more, right? Basically had they had two they had two, uh a cost estimator who who said it was going to cost less and then their cost uh their construction manager who said it was going to cost more, you net it and it was like, you know the difference was zero. You know, we don’t necessarily expect maybe there’ll be some cost increase or whatever but that was sufficient to for the owner to say okay let’s move ahead, right? Um, so we’re really trying to drive, that’s where I would drive a simplicity of HVAC and like, look I think we can get to cross parity with Passive House if we design it right and choose the right components um. And actually I’ve got my own little uh six well there’s two potential projects. The smallest is a six-plex, personal project, I’m going in, I’m gonna test there and actually trying to get some federal grant money um, to uh, to test out this innovative HVAC solution that will drive costs down and, uh, yeah, so, we’ll, you know check in with me in a while, a year or two and we’ll see, see if I get the grant by next year and then uh see how it goes in a couple years.
PETER: We’ve run through a lot of, a lot of material here today. Uh, we’ve covered, uh quite a bit of ground um, where where can people find you online going forward, Andrew?
ANDREW: Sure, at our website peelpassivehouse.ca so, p-e-e-l and then Passive House, um,
my email is firstname.lastname@example.org so, you can drop me a line
PETER: Wonderful, well thanks very much for uh joining us on Curtain Wall Conversations and uh appreciate your time.
ANDREW: Yeah, great, thanks, Peter, for having me.
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