Canada's Condominium Magazine
What would “Canada’s greenest home” look like? It turns out, it looks a lot like any other home: two stories, front porch, cedar shakes on the second storey, hardwood floors in the living room. You would never know by looking at it that this house has zero fossil fuel usage, no sewage output, was built with virtually no construction waste, and will actually make its owner money by generating electricity. There’s nothing to tip off a casual observer that this is really something special. And that is the whole point.
The project manager for the home, which was built at the Endeavour Centre in Peterborough, said that he and his team did not want to build a “specialty” home that would be difficult for others to reproduce. Rather, the idea was to create a model that “any homeowner or contractor” could reproduce using off-the-shelf materials. Chris Magwood said that they intentionally did not choose materials that would be difficult to source and require skills that were beyond the scope of the average builder or homeowner.
Built by students at the Endeavour Centre, the net-zero energy home has achieved the goals that were set for it, including “extremely” high energy efficiency and indoor air quality. A net zero home is defined as one that consumes no energy and produces no carbon emissions. This one is on track for LEED Platinum certification, and its builders were also guided and inspired by the Living Building Challenge, described as the “most stringent” construction standard there is.
The home’s annual heating bill has been calculated at (it has not yet been lived in for a full cycle of Ontario seasons) about $325. It will have net zero energy use, assuming “average” power usage by its occupants. There should be extra power generated from the photovoltaics on the roof, which can be sold by the occupants. This could be worth as much as $3,500–$4,000 a year. There is an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to supply fresh, filtered air without heat and moisture loss from the building. And the house has a smart monitoring system, accessible by smartphone, for keeping track of and controlling energy use.
Chemical free, non-toxic finishes were chosen for the interior to ensure high air quality, further enhanced by the user-controlled air filtration system.
The building materials were locally sourced where possible: this was defined as within a 250 km radius.
The exterior walls are built with 16-inch thick prefabricated Bio SIPs with straw bale cores, finished on the inside with drywall and cement lime stucco. The walls have an insulation rating of R-35. In the basement, an Ontario-made product called Poraver was laid under the floor. It is a type of lightweight insulation containing recycled consumer glass. Windows are triple glazed.
The house has maple flooring, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and finished with a UV-cured urethane that is free from volatile organic compounds.
The high-efficiency plumbing system is very leading edge, featuring a composting toilet. This is something more and more environmental scientists are talking about these days, emphasizing that the present model of dealing with human waste, essentially getting it out of the house (and out of mind) is likely not sustainable. The Clivis Multrum composting toilet, it is said, provides the ideal environment for bacteria, yeasts, molds and so on to efficiently convert waste into useful compost.
The house is connected to the municipal water services, but the owners will have the option of using city water or rainwater. The house has a rainwater collection and filtration system designed to give it “water independence” and all pipes and plumbing fixtures have the lowest possibly water usage rates. The composting toilet uses just 0.1 litres of water per flush, compared with the best high-efficiency toilet rates of 4 litres.
For heating, the house opted for an air-source heat pump, partly because the Living Building Challenge specifies no combustion. Hot water will be provided by solar thermal collectors.
The recently completed net-zero home will now face the ultimate test: it is for sale, with an asking price of $649,000.