Letter: Energy efficient homes old news in Canada

Living Lab '" colossal waste of time," says builder.

To the editor:

Re: ‘Living Lab’ Project under construction on Kelowna.

‘Living Lab’ a Colossal Waste of Tme

What is being touted as the home of the future demonstrates how far behind Canadian wood frame construction and our building standards are in regards to energy efficiency and green building.

The home of the future has been with us since 1990 and is known as the Passive House standard. It is a building method that achieves homes and buildings designed to consume about one tenth of the energy a typical North American wood frame structure uses. The standard was developed by Dr. Wolfgang Feist from Germany and Bo Adamson from Sweden. These homes are so efficient that in Europe they are heated by the occupants, light bulbs and appliances. There are now more than 30,000 of these houses throughout Europe. Some Architects and builders have taken this a step further and developed the Active House standard wherein the home produces more energy than it consumes by employing a Photovoltaic (PV) system to generate all the homes electrical needs

A strange irony for Canadians is that these homes are in a large part based on Canadian innovation and experimental building concepts. The Saskatchewan Conservatory house built in 1977 is a super insulated structure that uses double walls filled with cellulose insulation and employs passive solar heating and cooling methodologies. The R 2000 home developed by the National Research Council of Canada in the early 1980’s features an air tight building envelope and an Air to Air heat exchanger now referred to as a Heat Recovery Ventilator or HRV to ensure fresh air. These innovations form the two basic principals of the Passive House building standard.

If the experimental home were to upgrade the insulation further by wrapping the home in an exterior blanket of insulation such as rigid mineral wool or ISO foam bringing the walls up to a minimum of R 40 and place sufficient insulation under the basement concrete slab it would offset the need for an expensive ground source heat pump system. By putting resources into the structure and insulation as opposed to mechanical solutions the end result is a longer lasting, quieter and more comfortable house.

I have been building energy efficient homes since 1981 and currently live in a passive solar home of almost 3,000 square feet in total. It had a $331 gas bill for the first six months during the winter and has never gone above 26.5 degrees Celsius inside during the summer when it was 40 C outside. This has been achieved without air conditioning. Simplicity and good design is the bases and beauty of energy efficient homes.

Gary McCallum, Kelowna