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

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

One of the first homes built in EchoHaven, a gated community in northwest Calgary, has been zero-energy certified 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 structures completed in a planned, low-impact neighbourhood of 25 homes. The owners, Dave Spencer and Debbie Wiltshire, have documented their home’s performance since occupying it in June 2012.

The project’s manager Kim Walton of Bow Crow Design feels the EchoHaven house is the result of an effective collaborative design process.

“The project incorporates elegant simplicity and clever solutions that have raised the bar for sustainable homes. A client who loves their home is the true measure of a successful project,” she says.

The EchoHaven house does not employ natural gas for heating or hot water. Instead, it uses radiant electric, passive solar, and solar thermal combined with on-demand hot water heating, a heat recovery ventilator, and greywater heat recovery. Renewables consist of a grid-tied 5.2 kW photovoltaic (PV) array and two solar thermal panels integrated with the exterior finishes. Extreme water conservation is achieved with low flow fixtures and rainwater collection/reuse.

Other strategies for reducing electrical consumption include light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures and energy-efficient appliances such as:

  • condensing dryer to minimize heat loss through the envelope;
  • cool pantry in the kitchen to reduce refrigeration needs;
  • kill switches to reduce ghost loads,
  • daylighting maximized throughout the interior; and
  • smart ventilation to eliminate the need for air conditioning.

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

According to the project designer, the well-insulated, sealed building envelope and high performance fibreglass windows were key to the home’s efficiency and comfort.

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

“What we did not anticipate was how much we love the feel of the house… we could never go back to living in a standard house. The extra effort was the best investment we have ever made,” he adds.

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One comment on “Calgary’s zero-energy home raises the bar on sustainable housing”

  1. Nice Project. My only concern is that the project on the outskirts of the city making the residents car more dependent than a site closer to the centre would. RV

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