UPDATED February 7, 2012 with a response from Wolfgang Feist
The first residential Passivhaus building in Canada is the Rideau Residences, a duplex at 279 Crichton Street in Ottawa. The building has impressive specifications: an R-70 foundation, R-50 walls, an R-70 roof, and triple-glazed low-e windows. The building’s air leakage rate was tested at 0.58 ach50.
On November 22, 2010, the Passive House Institute U.S., an organization with headquarters in Urbana, Illinois, issued a document to the developer, Christopher Straka of Vert Design, certifying that the Rideau Residences met the Passivhaus standard.
Up until that point, the certification process had gone smoothly. But then the Rideau Residences story took a strange twist.
The certificate is challenged
One of the consultants involved at the early stages of the Rideau Residences project was Malcolm Isaacs, a civil engineer and founder of the Canadian Passive House Institute. Isaacs was eventually replaced by Ross Elliott, an energy consultant and the owner of Homesol Building Solutions. According to Isaacs, “I was the Passivhaus consultant on that project initially, but I was not involved in the construction of the house.”
Isaacs had partial knowledge of the project’s details — enough information, he felt, to bring a complaint to the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. The essence of Isaacs’s complaint was that several as-built features of the Rideau Residences differed from the project documentation. In Isaacs’s view, these differences were serious enough to question the legitimacy of the building’s Passivhaus certification.
In a July 2011 e-mail to André Fauteux, the editor of a Canadian construction magazine called La Maison du 21e siècle, Isaacs wrote, “I repeated several times to Louise [Legault] that almost certainly this house does not come near the international PH Standard, and that this view is endorsed by the Passivhaus Institut in Germany, who are…