Case Studies

Small Planet Supply Inc.

Materials and supplies built for the world of high performance and efficiency

With locations in Olympia, Washington, and Vancouver, Canada, Small Planet Supply Inc. is one of the only companies in North America that specializes in distributing building products and materials specifically for Passive House projects. Specialty sealants, barriers, insulation, water heaters and pumps, HVAC equipment and more — Small Planet Supply carries everything needed to build a more efficient home, top to bottom.

Small Planet Supply is affiliated with Passive House Northwest, a community of Certified Passive House consultants dedicated to promoting high-performance building. Passive House is the world’s leading standard for energy efficient construction, combining building enclosure efficiency, solar strategies, indoor air quality and cost-effective mechanical systems for a home that is sustainable and durable.

Small Planet Supply Inc.

A Passive House project maximizes the energy efficiency of basic components found in all buildings: the roof, walls, windows, floors and utility systems. By minimizing energy losses, the mechanical system does not need to replenish the indoor environment as frequently, which in turn saves on resources, operational costs and global warming-related pollution.

A history of firsts

The Passive House concept first caught founder and CEO Albert Rooks’ attention in a New York Times article back in 2009. “The house was designed by Nabih Tahan, a California architect who worked in Austria, learning more about the country’s energy-efficient buildings. He completed one of the first passive houses in Berkeley for his family,” shares Rooks.

With his interest piqued, Rooks began to research more and form friendships and ties in the industry. “I met Dan Whitmore of the Passive House Northwest group and he was building the first Passive House in Seattle,” recounts Rooks. “He needed a way to achieve better building envelope tightness and I went looking for the right product.”

Rooks came across SIGA Cover, a Swiss manufacturer of building-envelope products for indoor air sealing and external moisture management. “I was the first person in North America to place a SIGA order and we used the product on the Seattle home,” says Rooks.

Seeing the need for a single-source supplier for Passive House and home performance builders, Rooks began to develop Small Planet Supply, adding more product lines and staff. He now oversees a team of six people and customers can call to order directly or place an order through Small Planet Supply’s online warehouse.

Rooks is very hands on, traveling between Washington and Vancouver to manage the rapidly growing business. “I often go out to our larger project sites and help builders and architects figure out what they need and what products will work best,” he says. “They really just want someone who understands what they are doing, their challenges and their unique needs — that’s where we come in.”

Not only does the company offer a range of these specialty products, Small Planet Supply’s team also serves as educators, hosting a number of Small Planet Workshops every year where they showcase the ins and outs of Passive House building with architects and builders. “We work with the building community to show interested professionals how to achieve these levels of performance, touching on ventilation, air tightness, air quality and more,” says Rooks.

In order to qualify as a Passive House, the project must undergo a third-party audit to verify all of these components. Rooks and his startup business partner, Tad Everhart, cofounded the internationally accredited CertiPHIers Cooperative in 2015 to perform verification and certification services.

Meeting rising demand with leading manufacturers

As the demand for home efficiency grows and more Passive House projects pop up, Small Planet Supply is catering to customers across North America, from New England to Southern California, Mexico to New Brunswick and beyond.

“We’re working on the ventilation design with our partner Zehnder America for some of the first multifamily Passive House projects in Canada. With about 500 units going up in Vancouver, this is a big step,” says Rooks. “We also have a large number of single family residential projects going on.”

Small Planet Supply continues to build relationships with leading suppliers and vendors in the efficiency market such as Sanden, the makers of the CO2 Heat Pump and Hot Water Heater. Most industry standard heat pumps use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants such as R410a, which has a 100-year GWP (global warming potential). The Sanden pump uses CO2 as the refrigerant and is capable of delivering enough hot water for domestic use.

The SanCO2 system consists of two parts: the outdoor unit, where hot water is produced using the CO2 refrigerant to extract heat from ambient air, and the 43-or 83-gallon storage tank, which is installed inside the home. The closed-loop system uses less energy and allows for faster heat recovery, resulting in lower operating costs than traditional electric tank heaters or typical heat pumps.

Small Planet Supply recently brought Thermacork on board, the makers of 100 percent natural tree bark insulation. The incredibly stable insulation can cope with major thermal variations, is hypoallergenic and free of toxins. It also prevents mold through its natural ability to “dry through” layers.

With a high R rating (R-4 per inch) Thermacork reduces thermal bridging and its thermal resistance doesn’t decrease over time as with man-made foam insulation. “On Whidbey Island we supplied a Passive House with 7 inches of cork,” says Rooks. “I’ve had 3 inches of Thermacork installed as the façade siding on my own home, replacing my existing siding for this efficient alternative.”

Small Planet Supply is the western U.S. distributor of Thermacork and its partner, EcoSupply, covers the eastern part of the country. “We have forged strong relationships with some of the new, cutting edge names in efficiency, and oftentimes we’re one of the first companies to help these manufacturers enter the North American market. I guess it’s because we’re unafraid to try these new, what some people would say are ‘crazy’, ideas,” says Rooks.

To Rooks, a home that reduces energy costs, lessens the impact on the environment and boosts healthy living is anything but crazy. Small Planet Supply Inc. continues a history of firsts, catering to the Passive House market and making a big difference with products and materials designed for high-performance homes.

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Spring 2018



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