As Pioneers of Passive House in Canada, we want to share our knowledge and experience with you.

Our blog posts include:

  • How a Passive House works and the building science behind it
  • What a Passive House costs and what are the savings
  • Practical info about Energy Efficiency
  • What our clients say about living in a Passive House
  • Design and construction info about new projects we are working on.
  • News about solar photovoltaics and other relevant systems
  • Resources to help you get started with your project

Affordable Housing from the Ground Up

Posted by PDS Team on May 12, 2023 12:58:15 PM

Our mission at PDS is to significantly improve the way we use resources for the health of our planet. Our vision is to design beautiful, efficient homes for everyone.

We spend most of our lives in our homes— spending time with family and friends, cooking, cleaning, and sleeping. We know our homes intimately—how they work and how they could work better. Most homes in Canada don't work that well from an energy standpoint and this collective inefficiency has a huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions. As a firm specializing in Passive House design, we work with clients who are looking to reduce or zero-out the carbon footprint of their home by building a new Passive House.

But the fact is, custom home design is not an option for most people. According to the latest stats from the National Association of Home Builders, only about twenty percent of new single-family homes in the USA are custom-built; the rest are built-for-sale by developers who need to turn a profit. Designing and building a custom home is a costly endeavour, and one that requires a lot of resources up front—land not least among them.  

And yet, here at Passive Design Solutions, our vision is to design beautiful efficient homes for everyone. It's an inspiring vision that our whole team shares. It’s what led us to develop dozens of stock plans, which dramatically cut the cost of architectural design without cutting corners on elegance or efficiency, making Passive House living an option for a much larger group of homeowners.
Recently, however, we’ve begun to realize our company vision in a whole new way. Through our growing network of community partners, housing consultants and builders, we’re currently engaged in a host of exciting design projects that bring Passive House technology to multi-unit architecture. The result? High-performance housing for a much broader range of people.

The Sunflower, the newest residential development by Adsum for Women and Children and the first of our affordable housing designs to be occupied, is a shining example of how custom design, energy efficiency and affordability can come together to create safe, permanent housing for people who don’t have the resources to built new on their own. The Sunflower was funded through a combination of the federal Rapid Housing Initiative program and generous donations fundraised by Sheri Lecker, executive director of Adsum, and her team.

How Community Groups are Developing Affordable, Net-Zero Housing in their Neighbourhoods

The first thing an affordable housing project needs is a group of motivated people with a vision for their community as inclusive and affordable, where no one is edged out due to rising market prices. This could be a developer, an existing not-for-profit, or a newly formed community entity. The next big need is land. Once those are in place, seed funding is needed to bring together a team of skilled professionals such as an architect and engineer. The design team then gets to work creating a site feasibility study and preliminary concept, which are used for further funding applications and municipal approvals. Once all of these elements are in place, the real architectural design and building preparations can begin!

Over the past few years, we've had the privilege of working with all sorts of community-based groups in Nova Scotia and Ontario. It's so rewarding for us to take the skills we've developed in single-family Passive House design and scale up to multi-unit and affordable housing models. In this work, there is an alignment of our environmental and social values that is both affirming and inspiring.

Curious about exploring affordable housing development in your community? Here's what we've learned about how these projects come to life.

Land Acquisition may not be as costly as you think. For affordable housing projects, under-utilized land may well be donated to the development project from a municipality, band council or provincial/territorial government. For Sunflower Court, Adsum received a brown field site from their municipality, which had previously held a school. Land may also be donated privately in exchange for a charitable donation receipt. Groups can also fundraise or set up a land trust. 

Development Consultants are individuals or organizations who serve as liaisons between the community group driving the development and their municipality's planning department. These are knowledgeable people who share the community group's vision and help to shepherd the project toward completion. They can help with funding applications, budget monitoring and reporting, and zoning and permit requirements.

Funding often comes through government grants. Other funding sources such as community fundraising and public-private partnerships with traditional development companies can also be paths to success for an affordable housing project. Here are a few of the government funders supporting this type of development in our area, and Canada-wide:

Net-Zero: Where Affordability and Sustainability Meet

The key to affordable housing is fixed operational costs. Housing that relies heavily on purchased energy is much more affected by inflation and market-driven economic fluctuations. But housing developments designed using Passive House principals are able to net their energy costs to zero, effectively safe-guarding against future rate hikes. By eliminating this variable in utility cost, housing managers can to keep rental rates low with minimal risk. Lower energy costs reflects lower carbon emissions. The beauty of Net Zero is that both the tenants and the environment get a break. Sustainable housing models have a direct impact on sustaining the health of our environment. 

Want to see more? Visit our multifamily project gallery to see drawings of our latest projects.

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Topics: The Cost of a Passive Home, Net-Zero, In The News, Affordable Housing

Welcoming Winter

Posted by PDS Team on Dec 28, 2022 10:00:00 AM

The snow may be late, but the waning light is always right on schedule. If your Passive House is already under construction, the rush to finish--or at least get weathertight--can feel like a race against time itself. But if you're at the design and planning stage of your project, long winter evenings are the perfect opportunity to explore styles and innovations, and to begin imaginatively crafting your dream home. Whether your plans come together in an idea book, on Pinterest boards or in a one-on-one consultation with an architectural designer, there's no denying the excitement of finding a style that speaks to you. A style that says welcome

In this issue, we're giving a sneak peek at six new stock plans to inspire your planning. We have exciting updates on affordable housing projects in Nova Scotia and our builder affiliate program, and we'll take a look at the science behind the blower door test. As always, we invite you to use this link to book your free 30-minute consultation with one of our architectural designers. 

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Topics: Insider, In The News, Predesigned Home Plans

Adsum Sunflower Project Continues to Grow

Posted by PDS Team on Nov 10, 2021 2:23:52 PM

Our friends over at Adsum have updated their blog with some progress on the Sunflower project - a 25 unit affordable housing development in Halifax, NS. Construction is underway and the need for long term affordable housing in the city has never been greater. We continue to be grateful for the opportunity to work with this incredible organization and their partners.

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Topics: Insider, Design Build, In The News, Affordable Housing, Construction

Passive House Plans Go Mainstream

Posted by PDS Team on Mar 16, 2021 1:44:45 PM

This article by Lloyd Alter for looks at how our pre-designed home plans have grown to be 40% of our current business efforts. Speaking from experience as a modular home builder and supplier and with a background in architecture, Lloyd identifies how our pre designed plans have aided us in our mission to bring Passive House to the mainstream. Read the whole article here, and visit our Home Plans section on our website to view the whole collection.



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Topics: The Cost of a Passive Home, In The News, Predesigned Home Plans

Best Practices In Net-Zero House Design

Posted by PDS Team on Apr 28, 2020 10:00:00 AM

An increasing number of today’s homebuyers want the quality, comfort and energy savings of a Passive House, along with the carbon emissions reductions of a Net-Zero house. Lower energy costs and
increased energy security are two goals especially important to young cost-conscious families and seniors needing to manage fixed assets. Net-Zero Passive House design that uses modest on-site, grid-tied,
electrical power generation is a simple and practical path to reach these objectives in most North American regions with heating dominated climates. Visit this High Performance Buildings article written by Passive Design President Natalie Leonard.

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Topics: Net-Zero, In The News

Changing The Future of New Home Construction

Posted by PDS Team on Apr 23, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Passive homes follow a set of design and construction standards, leading the way to a more energy efficient future for homeowners. By reducing the energy use of an average household by more than 70 percent, Passive houses have the potential to significantly reduce North America’s carbon footprint. From the building envelope to the interior finishes, these solar powered, airtight homes are designed with both the health of the homeowners and the planet in mind. To learn more about how Passive homes are changing the future of the built environment, visit our article published by Earth911.

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Topics: In The News

Cost-Effective Passive Houses

Posted by PDS Team on Apr 20, 2020 9:30:00 AM

With a strong knowledge base in building science and construction methods, the PDS team is continuously striving to simplify Passive home plans to keep costs down. In this Fine Home Building article published by Kiley Jacques, Passive Design Solutions Founding Partner Natalie Leonard shares hacks on how to keep efficient housing affordable. Starting from the top (or, in this case, the roof) down, this piece provides details on the science behind the design. Check out the article for graphics on our insulation methods and to learn more about Passive design features.

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Topics: In The News

Net-Zero Homes Within Reach for More Families

Posted by PDS Team on Apr 16, 2020 9:30:00 AM

Visit this article published by the Edmonton Journal and others to learn more about what it means to have a net-zero home. Passive Design Solutions offers affordable net-zero home plans that eliminate the cost of heating and cooling your home. By building Passive, consumers can see a return on their investment in a shorter time with the associated energy savings and the ability to sell site-produced energy back to the grid for distribution and use during higher-consumption seasons.

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Topics: In The News

Nice House, No Power Bill

Posted by PDS Team on Apr 14, 2020 1:48:10 PM

As demand grows for affordable, energy efficient housing, the PDS team has created a series of stock plans to offer affordable Passive houses to all. The plans are diverse in their size, layout and style, but have all been designed and tested with an energy model to provide a high level of energy efficiency. By combining our architectural and engineering expertise with the knowledge of our builders, we ensure that each home from our stock plan collection can be built with cost and schedule in mind.

Check out this Chronicle Herald article where Natalie Leonard shares some more background information on how Passive buildings are the future of development.

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Topics: In The News