Integrating Renewables and Conservation Measures in a Net-Zero Energy Low-Rise Residential Subdivision
Lead Proponent: Owens Corning Canada LP
Location: Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta
ecoEII Contribution: $ 1,956,000
Project Total: $ 5,096,000
Housing accounts for 15% of Canada’s secondary energy use and 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Growth in the housing stock has contributed to a net 14% increase in household energy use since 1990. The energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from this sector will continue to grow if the industry does not move to build homes that are substantially more efficient. Net-Zero Energy (NZE) homes provide a means to accomplish these reductions but continue to be stuck in research and development (R&D) and/or pilot demonstration phase. Though the Canadian housing industry is large, it is highly fractured with thousands of individual homebuilders. They have limited capacity to pool resources and share the risks associated with R&D. A small but growing number are building NZE homes. However, in order to achieve industry wide adoption, a community-sized demonstration by production builders is key. The unique challenges of NZE production housing must be addressed and solutions that reduce the cost of NZE homes must be found. To that end, Owens Corning Canada in partnership with buildABILITY Corporation proposed the project “Integrating Renewables and Conservation Measures in a Net Zero Low-Rise Residential Subdivision” for ecoEII funding. The project was awarded $1,956K. BuildABILITY Corporation was the project manager and lead consultant.
Five production builders were selected and tasked with constructing at least 25 NZE market-ready homes in five different communities across Canada. The builders were: Construction Voyer, Mattamy Homes, The Minto Group, Provident Development and Reid’s Heritage Homes. The project began with a national design charrette held in March 2013, which brought together the five builders and Canada’s leading housing and net zero experts, to discuss the path to NZE housing and communities and the barriers that exist. Each builder teamed up with a local housing consultant. Together, they determined how the homes would be designed to meet NZE standards. The teams agreed that all windows would to be triple-glazed. Rigid insulation in the walls, extra insulation under the roof and an exterior air barrier would curb energy leakage (airtightness target of 1.5 air changes per hour @50 Pa). An air source heat pump, effective to -30°C, would be the principal device for warming the house, eliminating the need for a furnace. Power for appliances and lights would be generated by solar photovoltaic (PV) panels installed on the roof. Design of the homes began and in October 2013, at the Net-Zero North American Leadership Summit in California, all five builders presented their designs and specifications to an international audience for feedback.
On September 19th 2015, Reid’s Heritage Homes opened the doors of the project’s first NZE home built in the community of Westminster Woods, in Guelph, Ontario. It was the first of five NZE homes built by Reid’s Heritage Homes. By February 22, 2016 a total of 26 homes were built across Canada in 5 communities: four NZE housing communities and one NZE ready housing community. Mattamy Homes built five NZE houses in the community of Cityscape (Calgary, Alberta). Construction Voyer built six NZE stacked townhome units in the Val-des-Ruisseaux Condo community (Laval, Quebec). The Minto Group built one NZE detached home and four NZE townhomes in Kanata’s Arcadia Community (Ottawa, Ontario). Provident Development built five NZE ready homes in Bedford, Nova Scotia where solar PV panels were offered as an optional upgrade to respond to local market needs.
The underlying technologies that make the homes innovative include: the use of Owens Corning’s CodeBord® Air Barrier System to create a high-performing building envelope that significantly reduces air leakage, as well as triple pane windows to enhance comfort and insulation while reducing noise (e.g. JELD-WEN). Each home also incorporates an air source heat pump for space heating (e.g. Mitsubishi Electric’s Zuba Central cold climate ashp) and a hybrid air source heat pump hot water tank (e.g. Rheem Canada). Moreover, solar PV panels are mounted on the back roof as the primary renewable energy generation technology (e.g. Canadian Solar). Please see zeroenergy.ca for videos and images of the completed homes.
Benefits to Canada
This project has the potential transform the housing market Canada and catalyse widespread adoption of NZE home building standards and practices, thus providing Canadians with better-built homes and healthier indoor environments.
Support the industry in building capacity and encourage voluntary certification (e.g. Canadian Home Builders’ Association’s Net Zero Home Labelling Program).
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