The Keyworth Passive House


Ottawa, Ontario

Completion date

Spring 2018

The Keyworth Passive House Story

Project Type Custom House
Client Private
Neighbourhood Champlain Park / Wellington Village
Concept Contemporary Sustainable Design (Passive House & Net Zero) and Aging in Place
Contractor TBD

The clients of 243 Keyworth challenged ARCA-VERDE to answer the following three questions:

  1. Is it possible for a house to respond to the needs of a young family and be flexible to respond as the kids grow and move away?
  2. Is it possible to develop an environmentally responsible house that is also contemporary?
  3. Is it possible for a house to have everything?

The Keyworth Passive House is destined to prove it is possible.

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Situated mid-block in a quaint Ottawa neighbourhood (Wellington Village), this project will prove the above questions are not only possible but can be used to develop something of merit.  Located in the Champlain Park area, a little-known pocket beside Tunney’s Pasture, it is close to amenities on Wellington and the Ottawa River Parkway.  Perfect for a family with a walking lifestyle.  The property has an east-west orientation and west-facing frontage crucial for both Passive Solar and Ventilation concepts.  The site zoning easily supports the growth and flexibility required to change as the family grows, and ARCA-VERDE intends to do so with as small a footprint (house size) as possible.

Champlain Park has seen many recent rejuvenation projects, often increasing neighbourhood density. It is truly a neighbourhood in transition.  The Keyworth Passive House demonstrates a balance between family needs, environmental responsibility and respect for the neighbourhood context resulting in a new architectural language.  Three obstacles turned into an opportunity.


It is important for ARCA-VERDE to arrange the house so that it does not appear large.  The form and sloping roofline reduce the structure’s presence on the street.  The result is an expression that is elegant and unimposing.

The house is composed of a single compact and efficient volume. The house location is nestled against the west and north property lines to permit maximum solar exposure.  The outcome is a compact and efficient interior layout.  The garage location creates a pseudo-side lane allowing access to the back door.  The rear entrance releases the front façade as the formal entrance and street presence.  All everyday family functions can occur through the informal entrance.  The Keyworth Passive House is an essential project for the firm as it is through this project that our approach to houses developed.


The open concept plan creates the intended expansive interior views, which allows maximum penetration of natural light and offers few obstacles for natural ventilation.   However, the planning presents areas of repose and isolation.  In either the spa-inspired washroom, private master bedroom or studio space on the loft level, each space aims to be a place to seek independence or recharge when needed.


It is an ARCA-VERDE desire that all technology within a house has little to no presence.  This can be difficult with sustainable ideals, but allowing architecture to be the first response is achievable.  Rather than relying on technology or equipment to heat, cool and ventilate the building shape, interior configuration and placement of windows are all that is required.   The house shape promotes natural ventilation with low windows that allow air to enter the house and rise up to the higher windows on the opposite side of prevailing winds.  The east-west orientation with large windows facing south allows the winter sun to heat the interior, almost eliminating any need for supplemental mechanical heat.  This also allows adequate natural light in all rooms.  The windows connected with the exterior courtyard blur the line between interior and exterior space providing a bigger interior feel.


Age in Place and Functional Description

To allow for the family growth and change, the house must respond to three stages; firstly, all family members living in the house before the kids leave for University; secondly, the empty nest period when the kids have moved out permanently; thirdly, should one or both owners develop physical mobility issues. The development of three zones within the floor plan serves as the private, semi-private and public separations.    The first is the first floor (semi-public section) with the dining, living and kitchen rooms.  The second zone is the 2nd and loft storey (private).  The third is the outdoor zone (public).

The first zone is the formal zone when full occupancy occurs.  While entertaining, the dining room is large enough to host 8-10 people comfortably.   The kitchen, designed to be the hub of the house, is modest in size but has a large amount of storage.  The living room is a formal area with conversational seating.  When operating in the second stage of existence, the couple occupies the upper two storeys and rents out the lower storey. In the third stage, this area becomes the couples should mobility be an issue.  Little work would be required to accommodate the changed function.  The kitchen remains, the washroom and closet area will receive a stand-up shower or modified tub (planned for with design), and the living room will become the bedroom.  A ramp planned for this stage allows access to the front door.

Once the kids have moved out, the upper two storeys will be modified to include a kitchen, living room and dining room.  Removing the bedroom walls will change the upper floor to create a loft suite area for the couple.

The functional layout intends to be void of formal circulation.  Overlapping functions foster a creative and friendly environment without bolstering the house size.

ARCA-VERDE has considered every detail in the Keyworth Passive House. The placement of functions and arrangement of space creates an economy of area.  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.   In the most basic explanations, ARCA-VERDE turned each project challenge into an opportunity to develop something of merit.

Material and Design Features

  • Forest Stewardship Certified wood
  • Triple pane windows
  • Super-insulated roof, walls and floor
  • Photo-voltaic panels on sloped roof sections
  • Cistern water collection off sloped roofs
  • An estimated return on carbon investment of 12-14 years