Improving housing in First Nations communities and developing more energy-efficient housing are 2 priorities of CMHC’s National Housing Strategy. A new housing project in British Columbia (B.C.) co-funded by CMHC is helping us meet these exact goals.
The Yale First Nation Sixplex is a 2-storey townhouse project located in Agassiz, B.C. and built to Passive House standards. Passive House is a “better building” approach that has very demanding standards for energy efficiency. In fact, following these standards can produce buildings that use up to 90% less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings.
Before the Sixplex was built, a lot of Yale First Nation’s homes needed major repairs. Some of their single-family homes cost over $60,000 a year in energy bills and maintenance. The First Nation needed to build comfortable, energy-efficient homes, but ones that could withstand B.C.’s rainy winters.
To minimize construction and energy costs, the First Nation used certain Passive house techniques when building the new homes:
- Factory-built modular construction allowed them to build the homes faster and for a fraction of the cost of traditional construction.
- Thermal bridge-free design minimizes heat transfer through the homes’ walls, foundation and insulation.
- An airtight building envelope prevents heat loss and moisture damage to the homes.
- Mould-resistant materials both reduce mould and improve indoor air quality.
- Triple-glazed windows cut energy loss and eliminate cold spots.
- Increased insulation lowers energy bills and improves tenant comfort.
Because of its Passive House features, the Sixplex should be 80% more energy-efficient than if it had been built conventionally. It should also emit 80% less greenhouse gas. Another interesting fact: this is the first development built in a Canadian Indigenous community to be certified by Passive House Canada.
The work isn’t over now that the new homes have been built. According to Raouf Chehaiber, a senior specialist at CMHC: “It’s one thing to model expected energy performance. When people actually start living in homes, real energy performance can differ from what was expected.”
That’s why CMHC will be monitoring the project to see if its actual energy performance matches what’s expected. If necessary, at the end of the monitoring period, CMHC will see what can be done to improve actual performance.
It’s also an example of a Canadian community doing something great for its members. Says Crystal Sedore, Yale First Nation’s Housing Manager: “By using Passive House, we were able to reduce our heating and cooling costs and save our members hundreds of dollars per year. We also increased the lifespan of the homes and improved the health outcomes for our members.”