Kamloops green dream home no energy hog


It may not have been cheap to build, but a “green dream” demonstration house in Kamloops will be cheap to maintain.

The 3,000-square-foot home located in the Sun Rivers development is so loaded with energy-efficiency features that the estimated net cost for a year’s worth of electricity will be zero.

A rooftop array of solar photovoltaic panels generate enough power to warrant installation of a dual-purpose electricity meter that tracks the amount of energy consumed as well as surplus power dispatched onto the grid when the home doesn’t need it.

The insulation rating of the exterior walls is off the map —R44 compared to R12 for conventional fibreglass insulation in a 2X4 lumber stud wall.

An extended list of other features, ranging from 2.5-centimetre-thick recycled rubber shingles to a living-room waterfall that balances interior humidity, make it one of the most technically complex and modern homes built anywhere in the country.

The house is the product of a collaboration among several organizations, including the Canadian Home Builders Association, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Thompson Rivers University, and is one of 15 CMHC-supported “Equilibrium” green home projects that are either complete or underway across Canada.

The Kamloops home was designed by a Thompson Rivers University student, and the university’s construction trades program provided the student labour to build it.

Lindsay Langill, dean of the school of trades and technology at Thompson Rivers, noted that the university has partnered with Canadian Home Builders on housing construction projects for 19 years.

“There is no other home or project being done anywhere I know of, to this magnitude, where kids learning the trade in the foundation program are getting exposure like this,” Langill said. Trades students —carpenters, electricians and plumbers —”get hired, like bang, bang, bang” because of their familiarity with the green materials, he said.

The house recently opened to the public for tours and it’s the prize in a Kamloops YMCA/YWCA raffle.

The builders estimate the additional home features added about $100,000 to construction costs relative to a conventional home —although both CMHC and Canadian Home Builders believe those additional costs will decline as the materials are more widely adopted.

CMHC provided $60,000 and expects to get that investment back in kind as builders of all 15 homes share their insights and experiences in a series of forums aimed at fostering a fundamental reconsideration of the way homes are designed and built in Canada.

“This was a very cool job,” said Gavin Rasmussen, vice-president of Nexbuild, the general contractor who oversaw construction of the home. “You get used to building the average home, and this wasn’t the average home.”

There’s a geothermal energy system that uses pipes extending about 66 metres into the ground as an efficient means of heating and cooling the home.

“We also have a hot water recovery system on the main stack of the house so whenever you take a shower, wash dishes, it takes the hot water that goes down the drain and recovers that energy and actually stores it,” Rasmussen said.

“We’ve used a lot of renewable resources in this house as well. The flooring is all cork flooring —which is a renewable resource because you peel the cork off the tree but the tree keeps growing. We’ve used bamboo cabinetry. We’ve used all recycled glass and concrete on all the countertops.”

Lance Jakubec, senior consultant with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said site tours will soon be available for a Burnaby home that is part of the same project —even though construction is barely underway.

“Often what’s most interesting for people in the industry is not seeing the finished home, but seeing it under construction, seeing inside the walls, how the framing is done,” Jakubec said.

“It’s not about just the fancy new technologies, which are great in their own right, but almost a rethink of how houses are designed and built.”

Sun Rivers was a logical choice of venue for the home —the project’s developers were pioneers in the installation of geothermal energy systems at a community scale in Canada a decade ago and remain on the leading edge of environmentally sensitive design.

“With so many of these green technologies now, if we can demonstrate them to consumers, and even if they take bits and pieces, over time the entire housing industry will become more green,” Sun Rivers marketing vice-president Leslie Brochu said.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

James Chung

Vancouver Lifestyle, Cool Tech & Travel Adventure. Email: [email protected]

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