My family, like many in Guelph, considers our city to be at the forefront of sustainability and energy efficiency when it comes to residential housing.
Canada’s first LEED Platinum home was built in Guelph in 2007 by Reid’s Heritage Homes. LEED, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a four level energy efficient building certification program. LEED certified buildings cost less to operate by reducing energy and water bills by up to 40%. The platinum level was the best certification achievable in 2007.
Touring the LEED inspired me to make improvements in my old 1960’s home to reduce my energy consumption, starting with replacing light bulbs with LED version which save energy, money and last longer and getting attic insulation up to R50 (about 16”) to reduce heating and cooling energy and cost.
These things are great but wouldn’t it be even better if your house could produce energy and since your home energy consumption is reduced now, maybe produce enough to offset your total energy usage?
This is the goal a Net Zero Energy home achieves. Guelph builder, Reid’s Heritage Home, has been awarded the opportunity, along with 4 other builders across Canada, to build 25 Net Zero Energy homes under the Eco-Energy Innovation Initiative.
The Net Zero home will be built in partnership with Owens Corning and Natural Resources Canada, and on September 29 it was announced the University of Guelph will be joining the project. Many local sustainable building product companies will be joining them in building this energy neutral home.
A Net Zero Energy home must fulfil 4 categories to achieve certification as set out by the International Living Future Institute and operated in Canada by the Canada Green Building Council. The energy requirement is the primary focus of the Net Zero home certification.
The most interesting thing about the Net Zero home is that ‘100 percent of the building’s energy needs must be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis” and “no combustion is allowed”. That means no gas furnace, no electricity from the grid and no ‘green tags’ or ‘green power’ purchases are allowed to offset energy consumption (http://living-future.org/lbc/certification).
These may look like daunting requirements to fulfill to the average person but increased consumer demand as a result of incentives in Ontario and around the world has put pressure on manufacturers and researchers to produce higher energy efficiencies for heating, cooling, insulation, and solar photovoltaic (PV) units.
Over the last 5 years this demand has helped reduce the price of these new technologies benefiting not just net zero home builders but everyone who needs to replace their heating or cooling system in their existing home.
Moving to this new technology will save you money as a home owner over time and most importantly benefits the environment by reducing use of fossil fuels. New technology benefits everyone.
The Net Zero home is meeting these energy requirements can be met with by using new heating and cooling technologies like ground source heat pumps and efficient area wall mount heating and cooling units. Solar photovoltaic (PV) system to generate electricity is a must and with enough roof space you could even go completely off the hydro grid.
The Guelph home will be using technology from Rheem, Mitsubishi Electric and Canadian Solar (local manufacturer). All the energy data must be collected every month and compiled for 12 months to verify certification as a Net Zero Energy home. http://living-future.org/sites/default/files/LBC/LBC_Documents/NZEBC_doc_requirements-3.pdf
Guelph a leader in sustainable programs
Our city has long recognized the fragility of our city well water and has initiated many conservation programs that encourage the reduced use of water, even as the city continues to grow. Rebates for high efficiency toilets and clothes washers have helped reduce water use to an average 184 litres of water per day per person compared to the national average of 274 litres per person per day. Surprising, as Guelph continues to grow the total water usage continues to drop.
The city has also started the Blue Built Home Program. This is a certification program for new homes that rates the home from Bronze to Gold depending on the use of energy efficient and sustainable products. Basics, like toilets and washing machines are considered at the Bronze level up to rain water and grey water recycling system at the Gold level. This program is helping home owners reduce their utility bills by as much as 62 percent. http://guelph.ca/living/environment/water/water-conservation/blue-built-home/
Our city leadership supports sustainable initiatives
This month Guelph’s mayor, Karen Farbridge was named a member of Canada’s Clean50 and from that 50 named in the Clean16 by Delta Management Group which honours contributors to sustainable development and clean capitalism in Canada. During her time as mayor the City of Guelph has achieved many milestones even during significant growth in population and building:
- the highest residential waste diversion rate of any municipality in Ontario
- protecting about 25 percent of the significant natural heritage lands (wetlands, woodlands, habitat)from development
- doubling the amount of bike lanes in the city
- reducing energy use per person and greenhouse gas emissions
Net zero is the next natural progression in home energy efficiency. Once you have reduced your homes energy use to as little as possible it makes sense to now produce energy to offset that small amount of energy you do use.
This is a great step to start encouraging homeowners to consider how we produce energy as well as how much energy we are consuming.
I’m inspired by the possibilities of building a Net Zero home in the city and I’m looking forward to visiting the site and watching the building progress.
Brad Durant, P.Eng., RHI
20+years as Civil Engineer in three different provinces and 10+ years as Owner of Home Front Professional Home Inspections
“Educating People one at a Time”