Racing ahead with energy-efficient homes

Sustainability in the housing industry was the centre of EnerQuality’s (EQ) Housing Innovation Forum and Awards […], Thursday, Feb 23.

One of the interesting presentations was regarding the world’s first labelled Active House, built in Centennial Park by Great Gulf Homes, which was awarded Best Green Marketing Campaign winner at the EQ Awards held after the Forum.

Active Homes are an alternative to Passive Homes, which are both new styles of home building that incorporate very different concepts of energy efficiency. Both styles of homes are extremely well insulated and in a passive house solar gain is maximized, and north facing windows are minimized or non-existent.

An Active House maximises the number of windows in a home. It promotes increased natural light and ventilation through skylights and windows, especially the Velux versions that have automated controls to bring in fresh air when needed, as well as automated blinds and exterior awnings to control shading.

“We built a race car of a house,” said Chris Wein, of Great Gulf Homes. “We needed a race car driver to test it.”

That ‘race car driver’ was Russell Ibbotson. He presented a first person account of living with his family in the Active House. With special gadgets to monitor everything from air quality to energy and water use, Ibbotson was diligent in his scientific reports while his family enjoyed the feel of the space,  excellent air quality, abundance of natural light and a feeling of living outdoors while enjoying all of the benefits of indoor style. The family was sorry to have to leave the house after their six month trial.  (For a full story of the Ibbotson’s adventure in the active house go to his blog from the greatgulf.com/activehouse website.)

“A home is meant to be a sanctuary,” said Wein. “with comfort, quality, natural light/ventilation…spaces that are nurturing.”

Wein promises that Great Gulf will be building more of these homes. “We enjoy the best real estate market in North America, you could say the world…in order to be leaders we need to be looking ahead,’ said Wein, who has set up a not for profit division in his company that focuses on building innovation.

Using the analogy of the automobile industry Wein said, “20-30 years ago no body was selling cars based on energy efficiency…now we obsess over it.”

Wein believes the same thing will happen with homes that the cost of operating a home is going to be a large factor in buying a home. Wein predicts a major change coming with people worrying less about countertops and more about energy efficiency.

About the author: Anita Devries  is executive officer of the Durham Region Home Builders’ Association, voice of the residential construction industry in Durham.

Copyright: stockasso / 123RF Stock Photo

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