Lean, Clean, and Green

World's tallest passive house tower could rise in Vancouver's West End

Henson Developments is aiming to build a 60-foot-tall passive house building near downtown Vancouver, B.C. (Courtesy Henson Developments)

Canadian company Henson Developments is planning the world’s tallest passive house for downtown Vancouver. Slated for the edge of the city’s West End neighborhood, 1075 Nelson would stand 60 stories tall, hovering higher than most towers in British Columbia and with three times the efficiency. 

The Vancouver Courier reported that the City of Vancouver is currently reviewing Henson’s rezoning application and after that, it will go before the city council for a public hearing. Sean Pander, who serves as the city’s green building manager, believes the 555-foot-tall project will push other developers to pursue more eco-friendly projects. It’s located in a vibrant, largely residential part of town where there is rapid growth. “What makes it a really big deal is the amount of attention it will get with the public, as well as with developers, designers, manufacturers of windows,” said Pander in an interview with the Courier.  

But Rick Gregory, vice-president of Henson Developments, isn’t looking to build a basic, boxy tower with an ultra-tight envelope, he said. Both of the two top tallest passive house buildings in the world are rather square: Bolueta by VArquitectors in Bilbao, Spain, and the 250-foot tall residential structure by Handel Architects at Cornell Tech. Gregory wanted 1075 Nelson to be architecturally-significant. “There is a certain look that Passive House generally yields and we’re trying to move away from that to make it much more attractive to other people to take the same approach,” he told the Courier.

To achieve this, Gregory enlisted the help of British architect Tom Wright of WKK Architects and Gwyn Vose, director of IBI Group. Early renderings reveal an undulating structure with large loggia spaces in the center voids spanning multiple floors. While it’s likely Henson Developments will get support for some sort of passive house construction—Vancouver released its own zero-emissions building plan in 2016—Gregory’s goal of building an atypical design that’s the tallest in the world could prove more difficult if it ultimately means more money spent.

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