Passive House Accelerator Construction Tech: Mock it to Me


Mock-ups are a great tool, in the field, to plan construction sequencing and work out any kinks in design or constructability ahead of a build. They also provide an excellent medium to teach about many of the foundational techniques, technical design elements, and technologies that underpin high-performance buildings. They provide workers from the drafting room to the job site with hands-on training, as well as the ability to fully visualize the function of each component, how they are installed, and how they contribute to the integrity of the building envelope. As anyone who has swung a hammer or played an instrument understands, knowing how to do something because you’ve read about it doesn’t always mean you’ll actually be able to get it right when it comes time to perform.

Though it may seem like extra work and, consequently, more costly, mock-ups should be seen as an investment in the education of those who are working on the project. More education means more than just ensuring that workers understand the theoretical principles of Passive House; it means that they understand their practical applications and have experience applying them. This translates into:

  • Better craftsmanship

  • Faster assembly

  • More airtight construction

  • Less time searching for leaks after initial blower door tests

As cohost Kevin Brennan noted, working on a mock-up can also serve as a kind of team-building exercise, which can prevent the adversarial relationship between tradespersons and the design team.

That said, mock-ups can also be used during the conceptual design phase. Some of the advantages of using mock-ups during this stage is that they allow the design team to look at different iterations of something like a wall assembly, which may help them:

  • Correct design defects

  • Discover more efficient ways to sequence construction

  • Figure out a more cost-effective design solution

To look at one of the world’s foremost collection of high-performance and Passive House mock-ups in North America, Construction Tech Tuesday co-host Shaun St-Amour traveled to the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s High-Performance Building lab at the Zero Energy Building Learning Centre to meet up with Alex Hebert. Alex is the Zero Energy/Emissions Building Manager at BCIT’s lab. He and Shaun show off several mock-ups from BCIT’s collection and describe what features are key in making an effective mock-up.

Check out the video below: