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What Is An Ultra High-Performance House?

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

You may have heard the term "high performance" used in the context of home construction, but what does it mean?

Usually, people simply mean "energy efficient"; they are referring to a building that requires less energy to heat. It's generally more airtight and has more insulation. Sometimes, people will refer to the higher quality of indoor air. An air exchanger called an HRV or ERV provides a continuous supply of fresh air which is distributed throughout the home (see "How To Improve Your Home's Indoor Air Quality To Improve Your Health"). Occasionally, someone will also include the supply of natural light and its impact on mental well-being.

Buildings are amazing things capable of great feats. They are places to feel safe enough to cry in your pillow, places to showcase the skills of world-class individuals, structures that keep you from being blown away by 200mph winds, cocoons that keep you dry from forty days and forty nights of rain (or 58 consecutive days if you live in Vancouver), containers that protect valuable possessions and invaluable families, they are a manifestation of accomplishment as much as status symbols, they are an opportunity to express an individual or a community, pieces of art and cause for pause by passersby, a sanctuary for old age, a possible refuge against infernos, they are capable of holding a moment in time frozen against the passage of time... and you want to use vinyl siding? You're content to let 100-year-old carpenters' standard practice dictate the quality of your home life while you carry an unbelievably sophisticated computer around in your pocket as entertainment? To me, ultra high-performance entails performing excellently in a number of other, much less obvious ways than just saving money on heating.

  • An ultra high-performance building does not have unnecessary structural material. (Read "Top 10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Building a House")

  • An ultra high-performance building's form and structure is designed to transfer seismic forces cleanly through it. This is the least expensive way to design a building that will stand up to strong earthquakes.

  • An ultra high-performance building has inherently high resistance to burning. Wildfires are a hazard that faces not only cabins in the woods but entire suburbs in built-up parts of many cities - especially in British Columbia. (Read "How to Design a Fire Resistant House to Protect Your Home from Wildfire")

  • An ultra high-performance building's interior spaces must be arranged to suit exposure from the sun. For example, a kitchen or laundry room is much better suited to the late-day heat of a West exposure than a bedroom .

  • An ultra high-performance building does not need lots of expensive external shading devices.

  • An ultra high-performance building can keep occupants comfortable without power in the middle of winter for days.

  • An ultra high-performance building requires minimal air conditioning to keep its occupants cool. (Read "How Passive Cooling Keeps Your House Cool During Heatwaves")

  • An ultra high-performance building uses interior and exterior space efficiently and has a strong purpose for every wall and every wall.

  • An ultra high-performance building does not need great amounts of regular maintenance.

  • An ultra high-performance building can be reconfigured with minimal expense to suit the needs of old age or of a new family (Read "A Multigenerational Home Could Be Your Best Retirement Plan")

To read more on ultra high-performance homes, read "Grab The Keys To An Ultra High-Performance Home".

Alternatively, book a free 'Diagnostic Session' call with me where I will compare the cost of running your current house for the next 30-40 years to the cost of an overhaul or replacement to get you a far more comfortable home that will last twice as long.


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