In the leading edge of the home building industry there are many terms for high-performance homes. Terms such as green homes, net zero homes, passive house, and sustainable homes come up often. Sometimes it can be difficult to know the difference, or what each term refers to. Is a sustainable home different than a net zero home? Is a passive house better than a green home? Sometimes the terminology can be a bit confusing, so we will try to explain the difference between the terms, and why we choose to say we build sustainable homes.

Green Building

The first term to explore is green homes, or green building. The green movement is a movement that seeks to reduce carbon footprint, and choose more eco-friendly materials. Green building, sometimes called eco-friendly building, atempts to minimize the carbon footprint throughout the building process. This means choosing local materials when possible. It means choosing materials like wood and cellulose, which are carbon neutral, or possibly even a carbon sink, as opposed to materials like concrete** and fiberglass which generally have higher carbon footprints in their production and transportation stages. Green building would include trying to use hydro electricity instead of gas wherever possible, and building a well insulated home to reduce long term utility usage.

Net Zero Homes

The term Net Zero is often used to refer to high performance homes. Conceptually net zero means you are producing as much energy as you are using. This technically means that with enough solar panels on a big enough yard, your cardboard box could be a net zero home. Obviously it would be far harder and more costly to make a poorly insulated house net zero, but the considerations of whether you are net zero or not are not based on how much it cost to get there. Also with net zero there is generally no recognition of carbon footprint.

Passive House

Passive House is a method of building that has been used throughout history, but came to be known as Passivhaus in Germany in the early 1990’s. Passivehaus (literally passive house in English) is a style of building where the heating of the home can be done by pre-heating the ducts bringing in fresh air, and the total heating load is less than 1.5 cubic metres of gas in a year per square metre of building. Passive House can refer to homes or other buildings. The standard applies similarly to any sector of building. Passive House doesn’t explicitly address carbon footprint, or cost of construction, but rather provides strict air permeability numbers and R-values depending on your climate. Hence a lot of the construction techniques for a Passive House revolve around air sealing, and building more room for insulation whether on walls, slabs, or ceilings.

A Sustainable Home

While Sustainable Building doesn’t have an institute to prescribe requirements and minimum construction details it is best understood by the definition of sustainable.  A sustainable home is the one that is best suited to be sustained by your lifestyle. A sustainable home is different for every person. For some it means spending more up front in order to offset future energy costs, and for others there is the challenge of blending current affordability, and future ongoing cost of living.

We see sustainable building as a way to customize all the methods of building to meet your needs. It takes into account the design philosophy of passive house, the carbon focus of green building, and the energy production ideas of net zero and combines that with a fiscal element of your budget constraints to produce your sustainable home. Along the lines of Living Building Challenge, a sustainable home is a holistic approach to making your home fit your requirements for energy efficiency, carbon reduction, water retention, and cost of ownership.

We encourage you to come talk to us about building your sustainable home. We would love to hear your plans and explain how a well built sustainable home means a healthier lifestyle for you and your family. Please email us at to schedule a meeting!