Passive House Prototype for an Urban Neighbourhood


Ottawa, Canada Zones R2, R3, R4 and R5

Completion date


Passive House Prototype for an Urban Neighbourhood

Project Type Custom House
Client Prototype
Neighbourhood R2, R3, R4 or R5 Zones of Ottawa, ON
Concept Contemporary Sustainable Design (Passive House)
Contractor To be determined

ARCA-VERDE is pleased to introduce our prototype project for an urban neighbourhood in Ottawa, Canada.  The house is designed using the lessons learned from our many Passive House projects completed to date.  The design can also be easily revised to meet the NetZero standards.

The intended clients of this prototype desire a housing approach that reduces their environmental footprint while living in an urban setting (a walkable neighbourhood).  The intention of this design allows the structure to generate enough energy to meet or exceed the energy demand. It can offer a walkout level to transition children out of the house, support aging parents or rented for supplemental income.

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The ideal neighbourhood for this prototype is any neighbourhood labelled as R2, R3, R4 or R5 within the City of Ottawa Zoning regions where an 11 m max is permitted.  With the right soil conditions, this design can also be built with only an 8.5 m maximum height. The house is intended to be on a mid-block site with either a western or southern exposure.  The orientation will impact the number of windows and the need for solar shading (to be evaluated during the initial site analysis)).


The prototype’s exterior is intended to reflect the history of Ottawa using wood siding and brick.  Also included are cement board siding, concrete, and metal trims to support the main materials.

The house is composed of one efficient volume intended to simplify the exterior form and maximize the energy performance. The a-frame roof is intended to allow the majority of the roof area, with consideration for solar orientation, to harness solar gains and energy generation (roof-mounted photovoltaics).

The result is an elegant, unimposing expression that reflects the city of Ottawa.


It is an ARCA-VERDE desire that all technology within a house has little to no presence. It can be difficult when striving for sustainability, but by allowing the architecture to be the first response, it is achievable.

Rather than relying on technology or equipment to light, heat, calm, and ventilate, the building shape, interior configuration and window placement are all required.  For this prototype project, the house shape promotes natural lighting in all rooms except the mechanical rooms, storage and bathrooms.

Natural ventilation is provided with low windows that allow air to enter the house and rise to the higher windows on the upper levels of the house. The east-west long axis with large south-facing windows allows the winter sun to heat the interior, helping to reduce the need for supplemental mechanical heat.

The building shape, roof overhang and suspended shading devices on the south facade allow the windows to be easily shaded during summer.

Functional Description

The interior of the Passive House Prototype for an Urban Neighbourhood is divided into three zones; the basement level, the all public and semi-private functions are separated by the house levels.  The interior layout utilizes a split-level approach with an open concept kitchen to living room level. Also included is a private upper-level deck.

The planning will facilitate the penetration of natural light and offers few obstacles to natural ventilation.  However, the planning presents areas of repose and isolation as well.

The functional layout reduces formal circulation. Overlapping functions foster a creative and friendly environment without increasing the house size.

ARCA-VERDE has considered every detail in the Passive House Prototype for an Urban Neighbourhood. The placement of functions and arrangement of space creates an economy of space. Designing with the environment in mind makes a home with a low impact on the earth and a bright interior and reconnects occupants with the exterior environment.

Material and Design Features

  • Triple pane, high-performing windows
  • Well-insulated roof, walls, and floor
  • Provisions for photo-voltaic panels on sloped roof sections
  • An estimated return on carbon investment, after the project is complete, of 14-16 years