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Builders of Whistler's Passivhaus seek to expand operation

Request for Crown land rezoning goes to public hearing at Pemberton council

The builder of Austria's Passivhaus, which was a focal point of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, is seeking permission to start a passive house construction business.

A large group of supporters crowded the council chamber as the Village of Pemberton held a public hearing on July 3 into rezoning the Dürfeld Log Home Construction Ltd. Crown land Property at Tisdall, off Highway 99 along the Green River.

The Tisdall property is currently used by the company to build log homes, but its owners would like to expand the business and sell prefabricated passive homes commercially.  About 25 workers and other supporters connected with the company came to the public hearing in support of the plan.

The rezoning would allow the company to build a 20,000 sq. ft. building to combine their businesses.

Christina Dürfeld, daughter of the property's owner Matheo Dürfeld, read a letter for her father, who was out of the country.

In it, he said his current business location was ideal for the expansion of his business.

"With the expansion of the Pemberton boundary, we are now a business contributing to the local Pemberton tax base. This suits us well since the majority of our 35 full-time employees reside here in the community," he wrote.

Matheo Dürfeld said that along with a pilot project at Rainbow in Whistler completed earlier this year, which is Canada's first locally produced prefabricated passive house, the company is about to deliver another such building to a location in Surrey and is currently working on another for delivery in Fort St. John, in northern British Columbia.

"With the development of our site we are committed to providing for... employment and we will continue to be a wood resource-based company that will always embrace new technologies as they relate to wood."

Passive house (passivhaus) technology started in Austria, and the 2,700 sq. ft. Whistler building at Lost Lake was created to show off its potential.

The construction of a passive house requires airtight seams and above average insulating values, as well as a design strategy that substantially reduces thermal bridging in the building envelope. To maintain passive house certification, the building must use less than 15kWh/m2/year for heat, and no more than 120 kWh/m2/year for total primary energy consumption. Passive houses use up to 90 per cent less energy than a traditionally built home and approximately 50 per cent less than a LEED platinum house.

In the year following the 2010 Games, the heating costs for Austria House came to $280 for the entire year. The building currently houses a bike and ski rental location, and a small coffee bar.

The only dissenting voices from the public were two businesspeople who had companies in Pemberton's Industrial Park, who expressed concern about the growth of an industry south of Pemberton when the park was not filled.

At the council meeting that followed, council passed the third reading for rezoning the Dürfeld property, with one dissention. Councillor Alan LeBlanc voted against the rezoning, saying he was also concerned about establishing a company without considering the Industrial Park.