Renovate or build from scratch?

Fretting about winter energy bills? Renovate or rebuild?

If you live in an older home that’s seen better days, is not very energy efficient, and perhaps just not working for how you live, the question is demolition or remodel?

It’s up to you, of course, and we hope this article will help to sort through your options to make the right choice.

We frequently field questions like these:

  • Can I renovate an inefficient older home to be passive?
  • Can I make my house more energy efficient, if not fully passive?
  • Can I do a passive addition?
  • Should I tear down my existing house and build a new passive home?

The answers to all of the above questions are yes.

We are delighted to continually receive these types of questions because they are a good indicator that PassiveHouse is becoming common terminology.

PassiveHouse is a construction standard that will become Ontario building code one day and it will be here sooner than most realize. This could happen within the next 5 to 10 years, believe it or not. Building code in British Columbia made it there in 2019.

A passive home by design requires very little energy to cool or heat the space, making it an obvious ally in efforts to counter runaway carbon emissions and climate change.

To continue to permit new homes designed to run on gas, a finite resource that releases carbon when used, is absurd! We have climate change commitments that can only be achieved by eliminating gas immediately where possible and it is very possible to get rid of gas in a newly built home or renovated space with the Passive House approach.

Our home of choice is Passive House. It comes with an incremental cost to build of 10% but reduces energy used 80 – 90% according to today’s building code. And with the savings in utility costs the incremental cost to build is instantly offset on a mortgage payment and therefore the pay back is instantly realized.

The PassiveHouse standard reduces heat demand by 80% or more, which makes a huge impact on your energy bills. With this in mind, the cost to renovate or rebuild starts to make a lot more sense.

Going passive isn’t simply altruistic — it will dramatically reduce the running costs of your home for years and years to come.

So, back to those questions! Should you move, tear down or simply renovate?

A lot of factors come into play when considering whether you can transform an existing older home into a super energy efficient house, including:

  • the condition of your home’s foundation
  • the state of your interior finishes
  • your basement’s ceiling height (if you need more space and can’t build out)
  • whether you have the flexibility to build out
  • your personal situation and how well it will fit with renovation vs. a new build (home renovations can be phased, where you tackle one part of the home at a time, allowing you to remain in place)

Retrofitting an older home

If you’re keen to work with what you already have, read our blog posts:

Retrofitting an older home to Passive Standard

Retrofitting an older home: taking a staged approach.

Building a Passive home

If you think you might be best to start over, we’d love to talk to you.

Have a look at our house plans, read our blog, give us a shout!

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