Calgary’s zero-energy home raises the bar on sustainable housing

The Calgary home in this photo was recently certified as a zero energy home by the International Living Future Institute. The project team wanted to maximize the benefits of the south-facing location, reduce the owners’ ecological footprint, and use locally sourced materials.
Photo courtesy Bow Crow

One of the first homes built in EchoHaven, a residential complex in northwest Calgary, was certified as zero energy by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). Designed and built to produce as much energy as it consumes, it is one of 15 high-performance buildings to be completed in a planned, environmentally friendly neighborhood of 25 apartments. The owners, Dave Spencer and Debbie Wiltshire, have documented the performance of their home since it was occupied in June 2012.

Project leader Kim Walton of Bow Crow Design believes the EchoHaven house is the result of an effective collaborative design process.

“The project combines elegant simplicity and clever solutions that have raised the bar for sustainable homes. A customer who loves their home is the real benchmark for a successful project, ”she says.

The EchoHaven house does not use natural gas for heating or hot water. Instead, it uses radiation electrics, passive solar energy and solar thermal energy in combination with needs-based hot water preparation, a fan with heat recovery and gray water heat recovery. Renewable energies consist of a grid-connected 5.2 kW photovoltaic (PV) array and two solar thermal panels integrated into the outer cladding. Extreme water savings are achieved through low flow fittings and rainwater collection / reuse.

Other strategies for reducing power consumption are lights with light emitting diodes (LED) and energy-efficient devices such as:

  • Condenser dryer to minimize heat loss through the shell;
  • cool pantry in the kitchen to reduce the need for refrigeration;
  • Kill switch to reduce ghost loads,
  • Daylight maximized throughout the interior; and
  • Smart ventilation to eliminate the need for air conditioning.

The interior of the house is flooded with light, comfortable and quiet. The home’s design and construction goals were to maximize the benefits of the south-facing property, reduce the owners’ ecological footprint, and use locally sourced, durable and healthy materials with a percentage of recycled content.

According to the project planner, the well-insulated, tight building envelope and the high-performance fiberglass windows were decisive for the efficiency and comfort of the house.

Homeowner Dave Spencer says a tremendous amount of thought and research has gone into insulation, heating systems, renewable energy, indoor air quality (IAQ), and most importantly, how to keep building costs and utility bills low.

“What we didn’t expect was how much we love the feel of the home … we could never live in a standard home again. The extra effort was the best investment we’ve ever made, ”he adds.

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