Jim Spinney and Holly Ann Knott have one of the most unique homes in the Prairies – even though they don’t really want that designation.

“We don’t want to remain unique,” Knott told CTV Saskatoon. “We want to be … showing the way so that other people are saying ‘Hey, we can do that too.’”

Spinney and Knott own the first house in Saskatchewan or its neighbouring provinces to be certified as a passive house by the Passive House Institute. The German institute defines a passive house as a building standard which requires homes to be “energy efficient, comfortable and affordable at the same time.”


To qualify as a passive house, a building’s energy use cannot be more than 10 per cent of a typical home in its community. The building must also be able to regulate temperatures and feel comfortable in hot and cold weather.

Spinney and Knott said their home – which was built in 2016 after their previous, less efficient home was demolished – checks all those boxes.

“We’ve reduced our heating energy consumption by 90 per cent,” Knott said.

The couple make use of a heat recovery ventilation system, which keeps air constantly circulating around the home. During frigid Saskatchewan winters, the cold air entering the building is heated by the room-temperature air leaving it.

The system was designed to ensure that, as per passive house requirements, all sections of the home are heated equally.

“If you were standing on a ladder on our second floor or if you were lying on the floor in our basement, you’d probably have pretty much the same temperature,” Spinney said.

Insulation is another key component of the passive house. Knott described the home as “very airtight,” noting that they ordered special windows and doors to ensure as little air loss as possible.

While the home was more expensive to build than a typical house, Spinney said the cost will beoffset by spending less to heat and power it. The couple have no natural gas service and have also found ways to keep their electricity bills under control.

“As the cost of electricity goes up, it’s going to affect us even less because we happen to have solar panels on our roof,” Spinney said.