High-Performance Buildings Student Design Competition supported by Perkins and Will

The purpose of the Passive House Canada Conference is to advance the implementation of high-performance buildings in Canada. We call upon all architectural students working to create a high-performance design to submit a structured abstract for consideration to be presented at a poster session at the Canadian Passive House conference.

Thank you to our competition sponsors:

Perkins & Will Logo

Key Dates:

Deadline for Abstracts: June 17th

Review Completion: July 31st

Acceptances Delivered: Early August

Submission deadline for print file: Early September 2019

Eligibility for the competition

This call for abstracts is open to students of architecture or recent graduates of an architecture program. We invite students and graduates to submit one of their student design projects as per the requirements below. The competition is open to all building typologies (single family/multifamily residential/ education/commercial etc) and may be new build or renovation.

Passive House buildings have a low energy footprint. The remaining low energy demand can be met using renewable energy sources, making the Passive House Standard an ideal foundation for achieving a Net Zero Energy and Carbon Building. Students are invited to submit projects with these performance ambitions.

Evaluation Criteria

The project will be evaluated based on the following:


Passive House Certification compliance

Innovation: in sustainability / material use / design / performance

Applicants are invited to review the Passive House Certification Criteria for guidance: Passive-House-and-EnerPHit_building_criteria.pdf. The proposal should list what the target values are for each certification criterion. Submissions should show:

  • How the project aims to achieve these criteria
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the design challenges and opportunities presented by aiming for such a high performance standard
  • How these can be resolved in an architectural manner

Detailed calculations such as a PHPP (Passive House Planning Package) energy model demonstrating compliance with the International Passive House certification criteria or thermal bridge modelling is not required.

Applicants are welcome to present any energy modelling studies in support of this.

Passive House principles to bear in mind:

Compact form:

A more compact building is more energy efficient, making it easier and less expensive to achieve the Passive House standard.

High Performance Assemblies:

The Passive House Standard is a “fabric first” approach relying on a high performance building envelope to deliver exceptional indoor comfort and building energy efficiency. This means high levels of continuous insulation and thermal bridge free design as demonstrated through wall sections and details. Thermal bridging leads to heat loss and low internal surface temperatures. This results in a risk of condensation and compromised occupant comfort.


Ensuring a constant supply of fresh air is paramount. Energy losses are minimized by utilizing a high efficiency Heat Recovery Ventilator. Natural ventilation can be used to reduce cooling loads. Some consideration should be given to the planning and layout of the ventilation system to ensure a compact and efficient system.

High Performance Windows:

Specifying high performance windows reduces heat loss while ensuring internal surface temperatures remain high. Careful consideration should be given to the orientation and placement of windows and glazed elements. This is a balance between reducing heat loss, allowing passive solar heat gain in the winter and reducing the risk of overheating in the summer.


Build an airtight enclosure, eliminating heat loss and the risk of condensation while improving comfort and ensuring the ventilation system works as planned. Operable windows are required in all habitable rooms.


While the Passive House standard is currently agnostic to the material specified in a project beyond the thermal performance applicants are invited to consider the impact of material selection on both occupant health and embodied carbon.

Submission Requirements:

The competition is timed to coincide with the Spring/Summer 2019 Term, with the aim of allowing these studio projects be adapted for submission.

Step 1:

A brief design abstract/essay, 500 words maximum (in English/or French), is required as part of the submission describing the most important concepts of the design project. This is to be accompanied by such graphic material (plans/sections, renders) that convey a basic understanding of the project and how it aims to reconcile the project brief, design concept and passive house criteria.

Step 2:

The judges will review abstracts based on the criteria outlined above.

Step 3:

Once an abstract has been accepted for presentation, the final submission requirement is two (2) A1/ArchD size art board in portrait submitted in following TWO formats:
a. JPEG format min. 300 dpi, size no more than 100Mb
b. PDF format min. 300 dpi, size not more than 100Mb
The following drawings are recommended for the final submission. Final scale of drawings may depend on project type/size, below is for guidance:
• Site Plan showing context
• 1:100 Floor plan(s)
• 1:200 elevations showing shading strategy
• 1:50 or 1:20 wall sections highlighting insulation, airtightness layer and window installation
• 1:5 or 1:10 details of key construction details highlighting airtightness and thermal bridging strategies
• Materials specifications
• Outline specification of thermal performance assemblies/ glazing
• Outline of ventilation/mechanical strategy
• Minimum of 1 Rendering – inspire us on how amazing Passive House projects can be!

Download Sample

Step 4:

If the abstract is selected, the student agrees to be present at a poster session at the Passive House Conference in Toronto during the dates of October 17-18, 2019. The winners will receive complimentary registration to the conference, however travel support is not available, at this time.

The submissions period is now closed and submitters have been notified of their standing in the competition.


Key Dates:

Deadline for Abstracts: June 17th

Review Completion: July 31st

Acceptances Delivered: Early August

Submission deadline for print file: Early September 2019