The Sandy Hill Passive House


Sandy Hill in Ottawa, Ontario

Completion date

To be determined.

The Sandy Hill Passive House

Project Type Passive House Home Addition
Client Private
Neighbourhood Sandy Hill, Ottawa
Concept Contextual Regionalism
Contractor To be determined

The proposed project is an addition of a third dwelling unit to the rear of an existing two-unit dwelling at 93 Russell Avenue, the reconstruction of a current two-car garage, and landscape and amenity space improvements.

The property owner purchased 93 Russell Avenue nearly 20 years ago and, as a long-time tenant, admires the neighbourhood and intends to invest and update the current structure. He has recently relocated to Ottawa from Toronto and, along with his wife and infant daughter, wants to make Ottawa his home for the foreseeable future.  To support his family, the addition includes a 3-bedroom unit stacked over three storeys above grade and a finished basement level.

The proposed project aims to provide a family-oriented dwelling unit in a highly accessible and central neighbourhood in Ottawa, recognizing that affordable family-friendly units are in short supply, especially in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood. The new dwelling unit has a family-oriented design approach.

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The site, located on the east side of Russell Avenue, slopes from the road down toward the rear property line.  A private shared laneway is located on the north edge of the property. The site is beside several three and four-storey brick multi-unit residential buildings to the north, west, and east. The proposed project does not make any significant changes to the front façade of the property, as viewed from the streetscape, other than cosmetic and maintenance upgrades.


Designed to meet the Passive House standard, the sun is the primary heating source during winter. The project takes advantage of southern and western exposure to harness the sun.  The new 3rd dwelling unit is modest in size and compact in shape, and the third floor raises the project allowing the necessary solar penetration and providing natural light throughout.

Furthermore, the project incorporates the reconstruction of the existing 2-car garage to provide a more durable structure that includes a green roof terrace, provisioning for electric vehicle charging and storage for bicycles and a safe waste management area.

The proposed mono-sloped roof of the addition maximizes the surface potential for future photovoltaic panels and solar domestic water heaters. This design approach permits three storeys of usable space below.  The result is a structure that adheres to or exceeds the required zoning requirements while achieving ambitious sustainable goals.

The addition’s design evolved from analyzing the existing site, neighbourhood and client needs.  An extensive investigation into neighbouring finishes was conducted to match the new materials with the neighbourhood context.  A massing study was undertaken to ensure the addition works with the existing house proportions, avoiding visual dominance.  The levels and other exterior finishes are intended to align with vertical solid elements on the current house.

The intention is to use traditional stucco, commonly used in the neighbourhood, as a primary façade material and to accent portions of the façade with the vertical and horizontal siding in a matching colour or stained wood.  The south façade includes solar shading structures to protect the interior during summer and allow maximum solar gain in winter (a passive house principle).  These screens will be built with complementary materials and simple louvred panels, likely combining metal, wood, and fabric.

For the garage, we intend to move it back on the site towards the rear property line and rotate it to align with the property lines allowing for an upgraded amenity area.  The garage finishes are intended to match the new addition, including concrete, stucco, and vertical and horizontal siding.

Functional Description

To provide for the growing family’s needs, the home offers three bedrooms, a master suite with ensuite and walk-in closet, a den space on the second floor where future teenagers can retreat, a lower level playroom for young kids to play that also serves as a guest room made possible with ample storage and a murphy bed. The main floor open concept will connect the family while providing flexibility to reconfigure for larger formal dinner parties. The stair opening above the library will permit light penetration and natural ventilation.  Carefully placed windows will also grant natural light. A second-floor laundry room and washroom are designed to provide separate use of each fixture without preventing access to the other fixtures.

ARCA-VERDE has considered every detail in the Russel Avenue Passive House project, focusing on the client’s needs and family dynamic.   Placing functions and arrangement of space creates an economy of space but elegance when needed.

Material and Design Features

  • Conventional Stucco,
  • Forest Stewardship Certified wood,
  • Triple pane, high-performing Passive House Certified windows,
  • A super-insulated roof,
  • Mono-slop facing solar exposure for photo-voltaic panels
  • Increased storage, and
  • Third-floor master suite