Interview with Andrew Peel CPHC for the Subaru Passive House Dealership
This January we made a push at Passive House Accelerator to gather stories of Passive House retail projects around the world (more on that later), and a notable entry was the Passive House Subaru dealership in Red Deer Alberta for Scott Subaru. Andrew Peel, Passive House consultant and trainer-extraordinaire consulted on the project, the first of its kind in the world. I caught up with Andrew recently for a chat about his work and about the project.
Zack Semke: So why don’t we jump right in. Could you introduce yourself and your work?
Andrew Peel: Sure, so I’m Andrew Peel and I own and run a business called Peel Passive House Consulting, which is a firm dedicated to the Passive House industry and supporting projects and initiatives that are aligned with Passive House design and construction. Most of the buildings we get involved with would be targeting Passive House certification. If not, then, basically, Passive House performance levels.
I created the company intentionally about eight years ago with this focus at a time when the industry was almost non-existent. My vision was to help transform the construction industry to this way of designing and constructing. It’s been wonderful to be a part of the evolution that is happening, and I really feel that we’re at a tipping point now with Passive House in the industry. I think people more and more are getting on board, seeing the value, and really diving in, so the number of projects has really increased a lot because the policy that’s supporting it is coming into place. It’s really been a privilege to be part of the ride.
Zack: What do you think is driving that tipping point?
Andrew: I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I see the urgency that has arisen around action for climate change—climate change mitigation. I think there’s a recognition that Passive House is a part of the solution for that challenge, and that it is a proven solution for a variety of different building types. We have strong evidence in North America that that’s the case. I think it’s harder to argue that Passive House doesn’t work around North America because it’s been proven to work where a lot of stuff that has come before has not had the consistency of delivering on its promise. I think Passive House delivering on its promise has been fundamental to its success.
Zack: That makes sense. What brought you to Passive House?
Andrew: Philosophical musings? [Laughter] My background was not in construction. I actually have an electrical engineering background, and then I got really into renewable energy—this is back in 2004 or 2005—and I was looking for opportunities to get into the industry, which was like a cottage industry back then. I couldn’t find any opportunities for jobs in Canada, or in North America, so I decided to do a master’s program to get my foot in the door.
I ended up finding a master’s in Germany that I enrolled in. On that journey I learned a lot about renewables, but I also recognized that it’s fundamentally easier to save a kilowatt hour than to find an alternative means of producing a kilowatt hour, so that led me into efficiency—energy efficiency—and ultimately into building energy efficiency. Through that exploration of what opportunities lay in that area I came across the Passive House Institute, which I had not been aware of previous to this. That was about 2006 or 2007, and I ended up getting an opportunity with the Passive House Institute to work on an aspect of the Passive Housing Planning Package [PHPP].
Zack: Oh. Okay. Got it. I wasn’t aware of this history of yours.
Andrew: Yeah. I ended up contributing to the development of PHPP—sort of an expansion so that it was more locally applicable—and then that got me into the Passive House space. It was fortunate that I found, in my mind, the leading standard in energy efficiency for buildings. I started at the source—at one end of the spectrum as opposed to others who start in more conventional construction.