Press Releases March 10, 2021

University of Victoria’s New Student Housing and Dining Buildings Set Passive House Precedent

Designed by Perkins&Will, the university mixed-use complex raises the bar for high performance

VICTORIA, British Columbia—The University of Victoria’s (UVic) new Student Housing and Dining project, designed by Perkins&Will, is one of the largest projects in Canada designed to achieve the Passive House standard—internationally recognized as the most stringent for building energy performance. Assessed by the Passive House Institute, the complex’s two buildings passed the design stage review—the initial step towards certification. Currently under construction by EllisDon-Kinetic, a joint venture, the nearly 31,000-square-metre (333,000-square-foot) mixed-use complex includes a mix of housing, dining, academic, and conference spaces.

“Our vision is to achieve an extraordinary academic environment and a vibrant and sustainable community that nurtures student experience and well-being,” says Mike Wilson, director of campus planning and sustainability at UVic. “Passive House allows us to meet a number of our objectives for sustainability and the student experience, and was the natural choice for the new Student Housing and Dining buildings.”

By meeting the Passive House standard, the facility supports UVic to meet its commitment to energy efficiency, climate resilience, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions as outlined in the university’s Sustainability Action Plan. It is also targeting LEED v4 Gold.

High Performance

Designed to raise the bar for high performance, the facility exceeds Step 5 of British Columbia’s Energy Step Code, the highest level of energy efficiency in the province. A dramatic improvement over the former student residence buildings, the new complex reduces the net carbon footprint by 90% while simultaneously increasing capacity by over 600 beds.

With the application of the standard providing a large reduction in energy demand for heating and cooling, a substantial portion of the building’s energy use, the facility goes further and is almost entirely powered by the province’s hydroelectricity—considerably diminishing the use of fossil fuels.

Serving approximately 8,700 meals per day, the facility’s large commercial kitchen represents a significant amount of the building’s energy use. Employing a robust energy reduction strategy, the kitchen is designed to be five to six times more energy efficient than convention—reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% for the entire building.

“The student dormitory on the University of Victoria campus is a milestone project for the global development of the Passive House standard,” says Roberto Iannetti, associate researcher at the Passive House Institute. “This exemplary project sets a precedent for the largest commercial kitchen in North America designed in a Passive House building.”

Comfortable and Healthy Indoor Environment

Going beyond Passive House, the facility is designed to provide thermal comfort in a 2050 climate. A mix of natural and mechanical ventilation using high efficiency heat recovery ventilators, as well as both manual and automatic operable windows, dramatically reduces energy consumption while maintaining comfort. Even with the windows closed, student bedrooms receive 100% filtered outdoor air, resulting in superior air quality and minimizing airborne contaminants including viruses.

With a commitment to promote health and well-being, a number of strategies are implemented. Optimizing access to daylight, window ratios are balanced to meet thermal performance targets, allowing for generous floor to ceiling windows in public areas. Enhanced thermal insulation also provides acoustic separation from exterior noise, and mechanical equipment noise is kept to a minimum. Materials were reviewed against the firm’s Precautionary List ensuring healthy materials were selected, rounding out the holistic approach to sustainability by eliminating harmful substances. The inherent beauty of the mass timber structure and wood finishes offers warm, welcoming interior spaces.

“These virtues—clean air, natural light, thermal and acoustical comfort, equity, inclusivity—are foundational to academic success and must be ensured in perpetuity,” says Alex Minard, associate principal at Perkins&Will. “A bespoke blend of Passive House and LEED with other best practices formed a robust framework for testing design solutions, and it is our hope that the product of the collaboration of this extraordinary team of experts forms the starting point for subsequent similar projects.”

Commitment to Passive House

Perkins&Will has a long history of sustainable design and Passive House is a natural extension of this mindset. The firm’s commitment is evident in its design of high-performance buildings and on-going investment in training and education.

The UVic project builds upon the firm’s first Passive House certified building, SoLo, a unique off-grid mass timber house that achieves beyond net-zero energy performance and is certified to the PHI Low Energy Building Standard.

University of Victoria Student Housing and Dining team members:

Passive House and Envelope Consultant: RDH Building Science
Mechanical Engineer: Integral Group
Electrical Engineer: WSP
Kitchen Systems and Equipment: Kaizen Foodservice Planning and Design