Home Show: Adopting European house building concepts

After years of practical experience, Uwe Heyde’s interest in traditional construction with technological developments became his passion.

As a German native, Uwe Heyde started his career in construction about 20 years ago as a “Zimmermann.”

After a three-year apprenticeship, he became a certified carpenter and timber framer.

To learn more about his profession, Heyde joined a guild, as a member of the Rolandschacht.

He proceeded to take up a four year journey as a Zimmermann to learn more about different building techniques used mainly in Europe.

After many years of practical experience, Heyde’s interest in traditional construction combined with latest technological developments became his abiding passion.

He became a certified master in construction and timber framing, energy adviser and passive house consultant.

Heyde will be talking about energy efficient building and the philosophy behind passive housing design at the Kelowna Home Show this weekend.

So what is passive house? In Canada, we might refer to it as pre-fabricated housing.

Heyde says terms like sustainability and “green” are used quite liberally in conversation today with most people having an opinion but necessarily a clear definition.

For a passive house, he says the concept is simple,  sensible and smart. The main characteristics are:

1. Create a super-insulated building envelope (more than just adding thicker insulation) thereby maximizing energy efficiency before addressing additional energy generation requirements.

2. Computer modelled even the smallest design elements to enhance sun light capture and seasonal shading

3. Mechanically ventilate fresh, clean air (while recovering heat) then distributing it throughout the entire home to create optimal thermal balance and comfort.

What do these strict design parameters create?

Heyde says they create a  home that reduces its energy demand, instantly, by 90 per cent without incorporating a single active energy system. (i.e. furnace, air conditioner, solar panel, geothermal, wind etc.)

A home that comforts us, by removing indoor temperature gradients and providing air quality as pure and refreshing as a mountain retreat.

A home that connects the outdoors and interacts with us and us with it.

A home that is unsurpassed in true, relative value and will continue to provide all these luxuries for generations.

Only a handful of these building have been certified by the German and Canadian Passivhaus institutes in Canada, and Heyde’s goal is to introduce the concept on a larger scale across Alberta and B.C.

Heyde came to Canada and settled in Canmore, Alta., five years ago to work for a timber framing home construction company, but eventually saw an opportunity to branch out on his own with the passive housing concept, which he did last year.

He has a production facility in Golden and an assembly yard in Canmore, both which employ about 15 people.

Heyde says he wants to incorporate the European house building philosophy to his Canadian customers, where the builder works with the client through every phase of the construction process.

“In Canada, you tend to hire a contractor who in turn hires sub-trades to complete a house so you are somewhat removed from the process. We try to pay more attention to the quality of the building and to help educate the client on what makes sense for them.”

Heyde says the idea of energy efficiency doesn’t coincide with building 4,000 to 5,000 sq.ft. homes, where energy is provided on space in a house that is rarely used.

“Sometimes it’s more beneficial in terms of energy efficiency to think smaller and more practical.”

Heyde cites a number of features that go into a passive house design:

1. Water conservation through permeable pavers and xeriscaping throughout site.

2. Minimal north facing windows to reduce heat loss.

3. Clerestory windows for added day-lighting. Super insulated R-70 roof.

4. Optional solar panels (rough-ins provided) to achieve Net Zero energy requirement.

5. Solar shading for the summer months.

6. Water retention on site with xeriscaping and native vegetation.

7. Triple -glazed German windows that provide solar gains and maintain thermal comfort during the winter months.

8. R-60 pre-fabricated walls are made of natural materials (wood fibres) and wood siding which naturally “breathe” and are designed to last generations. Assembled to remove virtually all thermal bridging thereby achieving the highest air leakage prevention standards in the world.

Heyde will give presentations on his home building concepts at the Kelowna Home Show on Saturday, Feb. 23, 12:30 and 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 24, 2:30 p.m.