The Heights is a six storey mixed use building located on the corner of Hastings and Skeena Streets in the rapidly evolving Vancouver Heights neighbourhood. The 5,600 square metre building includes a basement parking garage, street level retail and five storeys of apartments above, with a total of 85 suites. The parking and retail space are constructed in concrete, while the five storeys of residential accommodation are of wood-frame construction. The site was rezoned under the City of Vancouver’s ‘Rental 100’ program, which offers developers additional density, reduced parking requirements and a waiver of community amenity charges if they commit to constructing and operating a rental apartment building for a period of 60 years. This long-term commitment means that the operating costs of the building assume a greater importance to the developer than would be the case in a similar structure built for sale as condominiums. The architect, Cornerstone Architecture saw this as an opportunity to create an ultra-low energy Passive House building - one that would use 80% less energy than a code minimum equivalent.
In addition to being the most economical construction material for this size and type of building, wood lends itself to Passive House construction. Being a natural insulator, it minimizes thermal bridging and contributes positively to the overall performance of the building envelope. The building is constructed with conventional 2x6 exterior walls; interior load bearing and non-loadbearing walls, wood I-joist floors and plywood sheathing and decking. The only non-standard aspect of construction is the secondary 2x4 wall that parallels the exterior walls. With a 50mm gap between these two walls, the overall depth of insulation can be 300mm. The vapour barrier, which in conventional construction is installed behind the interior drywall, is provided by polymer coated rigid insulation that fills the 50mm gap.