A project to evaluate the sustainable performance of a passive energy community center.

A climate-resilient community centre

The Clayton Community Centre in the City of Surrey, Canada, was built to meet the needs of a growing population. At the same time, the city also saw this as an opportunity to build a powerful example of resilient architecture and chose to go with a Passive House design to minimize its ecological footprint.

Highly nimble and adaptable, the building can serve as a critical refuge during a catastrophe. The design leverages natural lighting through windows and skylights, ensuring some visibility in a blackout. Natural ventilation systems improve air circulation but can revert to mechanical mode to filter the air if there is smoke from local wildfires.

Threading together the surrounding urban communities, the new 76,000 ft² community hub is a place for community to connect. It integrates visual and performing arts, a 13,000 ft² neighborhood library, indoor basketball, volleyball, and badminton courts, a full gymnasium, a fitness center, and outdoor recreation spaces.

Introba, one of Sidara’s sustainability specialists, revisited Clayton Community Centre after its first full year of operation since COVID-19, to check whether its performance lived up to its Passive House design credentials. The results were overwhelmingly positive, with the center using only minimal energy for large, commercial buildings.

Delivering on the promise of passive design

Revisiting completed buildings to measure their actual performance can both help to identify areas for their own improvement and provide valuable lessons for new builds.

During the evaluation, Introba looked at how the center’s usage compared with the design intent, as well as how it compared to other buildings. They also took into account the experience of people actually using the building.

Passive House buildings are ultra-low energy buildings using only minimal energy for heating or cooling, while providing a comfortable and healthy indoor environment. The Clayton Community Centre needed to be able to manage both B.C.s summer and winter seasons, which range from highs of 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) in summer to -10 Celsius (about 14 Fahrenheit) in winter.

To minimize heat demand, Passive Houses focus on insulation, airtightness, thermal bridging, form factor, and the harvesting of internal heat gains to offset mechanical heating. On a cost per square meter basis, the Clayton Community Centre rated about seven times lower than the British Columbian average across all building types - with an average monthly cost of just $433 CAD to heat the 7000 m2 building in 2022. If the sun is shining, the building is effectively self-heating in winter.

The team also identified some areas for improvement such as lighting usage and tapping more of the cooling potential of the natural ventilation system. Examining how people were using the building also brought to light inefficiencies that could be solved through better training and data, allowing people to understand and optimize the system controls.

Overall, the post-completion energy evaluation of the centre confirmed that the highly ambitious Passive House energy targets are a reality, not just a number in a spreadsheet.

Accelerating performance improvements

Evaluating the actual performance of completed buildings is a vital and yet frequently omitted opportunity. Doing so more often – and sharing the knowledge about what has and hasn’t worked in practice – would accelerate improvements to building design everywhere.

This evaluation identified where things were going well, and where improvements could help provide an even better experience for those using the new center. It was also a demonstration that the principles of Passive House buildings can be a good fit for large, non-domestic buildings, giving cities an optimal way to build healthy, climate-resilient, affordable and energy-efficient facilities.

Project Details

Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

Our Impact:

Our Specialist Brands:

Communities, Environment


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