One of Whistler's most visible 2010 Games amenities is now in the hands of the municipality, following a ceremony on Monday where the Austria Passive House Group passed on the keys to the Austria Passive House - a 3,000 square foot building at the entrance to Lost Lake Park.
Austria's environment minister Niki Berlakovich took part in the ceremony and expressed his hope that the project - a building that uses 10 per cent as much energy as a conventional building - was only the beginning.
"There is an enormous potential here for green jobs, the link between environmental protection and economic growth is no joke," he said, pointing to roughly 85,000 jobs that have been created in Austria through initiatives like passive house technology.
He anticipated that the interest in passive houses would create more business for Austrian companies, as well as potentially creating a passive house manufacturing and construction industry within Canada as building codes and the public come around.
John Yap, the B.C. Minister of State for Climate Action, called climate change "the challenge of our generation," and that there was a need to take action. He said the transition wouldn't be easy - pointing to the controversy over the carbon tax - "but we are committed to doing the right thing."
Chris Quinlan, who as the deputy mayor accepted the key to the passive house, described the gift as "Unbelievable the legacy that this will leave for the community." He added that Whistler takes two things seriously, the first being its commitment to sustainability and the second being its passion for sports - and the Austrian Passive House meets both. "I am both a cross country skier and a cyclist, and this is such an incredible home base (for both sports)," he said"
Austria Passive House uses a variety of construction techniques to create a sealed environment where very little heat is lost. Some of the features include triple glazed glass windows and sliding doors, interlocking solid wood walls, an insulated foundation, doors with three layers of seals, an efficient air exchange system, a geothermal heat exchange system, black exterior tiles that absorb solar heat and efficient lighting. It's the first house of its kind in Canada and was built to showcase Austrian technology as well as to house the Austrian Olympic and Paralympic Committees and Austrian television during the 2010 Games.
Now that the building has been turned over to the municipality it will serve several uses. Cross-Country Connection will be a tenant in the building, renting cross-country skis and gear during the winter months and bikes during the summer. It will serve as a daylodge for users of the cross-country trails during the winter. The upstairs includes free office space for the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association and the Whistler Nordics. An exterior storage container can be used by these groups to store gear.
In the coming weeks the RMOW will be posting a request for proposals to operate an outdoor recreation concession for food and beverages.
It can also be rented out for functions, with common areas upstairs and downstairs, a gazebo out front and outdoor areas in front and back of the building.
No final cost for the building has been given, as much of the material was made in Austria and donated to the project. However, one estimate suggests it was constructed for $1.3 million.
The handover also kicked off a two-day forum and sustainable technology showcase, with workshops on everything from the principles of passive house design to the adoption of those principles by LEED Canada (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
The building was made possible by the Austria Passive House Group, a public-partnership of the Austrian government, several Austrian companies (Sohm Holzbautechnik, Dense, BASF, Optiwin, Mendinger Basalt and Drexel-Weiss), the municipality and others. Durfeld Log Construction was the local contractor for the project and worked with the Austrian companies to assemble the building.
One of the lasting legacies of the project is a computer terminal that will explain passive house technology to visitors.