Interview Cedric Burgers – Why Passive House could be the answer to the challenge of developing sustainable houses in Canada

  • Posted on: 27 March 2019
  • By: Lotte Meijers

Cedric Burgers is the principal architect at Burgers Architecture in Vancouver. Because of his Dutch background and passion for sustainable housing he was  interviewed  for Parallel52. The background of Burgers lays with his Dutch parents that studied in the Netherlands and moved to Vancouver, where they started their architectural firm. Cedric studied in Canada and worked in Germany as an architect before working at Burgers Architecture.​

He has always been passionate about designing sustainable buildings and was looking for the right path to follow in approaching the design of sustainable houses, when he got in contact with the concept of Passive House. Passive House is a voluntary standard for energy efficiency in housing which result in low energy buildings that require little energy for heating and cooling. During the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 he heard about a Passive House in the ski resort Whistler and when he visited it, he was blown away by the simplicity of the principles of the Passive House.  “It is complex in the way that it is put together, but it is easy to understand what it is.” He decided that this was the way forward. Together with his colleagues of Burgers Architecture he started to explore Passive Housing. At this moment they have developed 5 certified Passives Houses. This represents about one third of Burgers Architecture’s projects and they strive to have all projects certified as Passive Houses in a few years. Currently Cedric is building his own house which is also planned to be certified as a Passive House (pictures below).

In Cedric’s opinion it is hard to explain the benefits of sustainable houses in Canada since, according to him, many Canadian people tend to care less about saving energy and living a sustainable, and some of them even wonder if climate change is a real thing. According to Cedric, their priority is having the best possible quality of life.

That is why he believes that the focus of the Passive House concept should be more on the dimension of the attractive lifestyle than on the promotion of the sustainable way of living in Canada. According to him Passive Housing provides several benefits that make this possible. Firstly, because the experience of a Passive House is extremely pleasant since the heating is very well regulated and it “just feels different”. And secondly, it helps against asthma, the problems of smoke, that comes with the forest fires, and pollen. These health benefits are the result of extremely good isolation and air regulation. The third and last benefit would be the fact that a Passive House contributes to a sustainable way of living. 

This is comparable with findings in The Netherlands , where despite the governmental energy ambitions, cost reduction and an improvement of the indoor quality are often more convincing arguments than energy efficiency. However, according to Cedric, compared to European countries, the Canadian government is about 15 years behind with taking that lead. He regrets that in Vancouver only a small group of designers is working with the  Passive House concept. Last year, only 12 houses in Vancouver were certified, this on a population of 3 million people. Additionally, only a very limited group of suppliers of ventilation systems and windows, that fulfil the norms, are working in Canada. That is why Cedric is in contact with several Dutch, German and Austrian suppliers. Another challenge of working with the Passive House concept in Canada is to adapt the European Passive House techniques to the Canadian building culture. For instance the materials used in Canada differ significantly from the ones used in Europe.

Cedric believes that there is big potential for developing more Passive Houses. Especially in Vancouver, where a lot of innovation takes place in the building sector. Just as the Dutch frontrunners Cedric and his colleagues are broadening their view from the topic of energy to a circular way of building in which not only the energy loop but all other loops, including materials, are closed.