Finding a Builder for Your EkoBuilt Passive House: Part 2

We wrote about some essentials in the build process in our first post; in this one we dig deeper into pricing elements and more.

We wrote about some essentials in the build process in our first post; in this one we dig a little deeper.

Flexible passive house kit

In our first post on this series about Finding a Builder for Your EkoBuilt Passive House, we focused on how best to find a builder, and what to look for in a builder, including specific skills.

We also shared what information and elements a prospective builder will need when quoting for your home’s build, and the resources we provide to them to ensure a quality build.

In this post, we’re taking a closer look at our process, pricing expectations from builders, financing, and issues to anticipate.

Screened in porch rendering for a passive home
A rendering of a screened in porch integrated with an EkoBuilt house plan

The building process

When you work with EkoBuilt, this is what the process looks like:

  1. We start with a plan or a layout – pick a plan from our website, send us an inspiration picture/plan, or send us your own sketch or layout, and any notes or comments. 
  2. We provide you with a cost analysis to assess budget feasibility and determine an overall exterior house footprint that will fit your budget. (Note:  all plans on our website have turnkey cost analysis documents; we are happy to modify any floorplan to suit your requirements at no additional charge.)
  3. Then we engage in a design process, where we will work with you to customize your plan and house the way you want it and provide you with an Architect Design package including Floorplans, Elevations, and 3D Renders
  4. We iterate on the design and once you are comfortable with the Elevations, 3D Renders and Floorplan for the house, we will develop a set of detailed architecture construction drawings.
  5. You then use these detailed drawings to:
Photo of the calculator feature on a smart phone.
Working together to get the best home for your budget is a key part of the process.

Pricing expectations for your build

Builders may provide you with a fixed fee quote or a cost-plus quote.  

A fixed fee estimate will include everything in your build for a specific price.  For any additional or different options, the builder would prepare a change order, and then add the pricing for those changes to your final bill.

For a cost-plus estimate, the builder will add anywhere from 10% to 20% to the base price of materials, and subcontractors, while providing you a labour price for items they would use their own staff for. This approach is more often used when a project isn’t yet fully defined.

In most cases, if you are dealing with bank financing, you will need to be closer to the fixed price quote, since the bank will want to have some assurance that there is sufficient financing to complete the build.

Financing for your passive home

Anyone who chooses an EkoBuilt passive home is looking to build the most energy efficient home they can afford.

Financing for a mortgage can be easily obtained through any mortgage broker or bank. It’s the same process for any custom home, and we would argue that a passive home is an even better bet for a potential lender, as your running costs will be substantially lower than with a conventionally built home (making it easier to meet your mortgage payments).

This exterior photo shows a two-storey passive home in the final stages of exterior cladding.
An EkoBuilt passive home under construction in the exterior finishing stages.

Why might a builder not want to work with us?

There could be various reasons why your build might not be attractive to a builder, so you will have to address these issues or find alternatives:

  1. Unfamiliar with passive or double wall systems: They are simply unfamiliar with passive house and do not want to take on something unknown. There are multiple building systems out there, some are complex. There is also lots of misinformation that might make building highly energy efficient buildings seem not as straightforward. At EkoBuilt, we have gone to great lengths to develop a building system that is simple to install and relies on the skills of a traditional carpenter or framer who has wood framing experience. We can help communicate some of this information to them, but it does not mean it will resonate with your prospective builder.
  2. Does not like the partnership model: Some builders are used to building and procuring all their own materials. In this case, they need to build the high-performance building envelope as per the passive house design we provide and the material kit we provide for the building envelope. Builders should view EkoBuilt as simply another material vendor, in this case for the building envelope assembly. We make it easier for them by:
    • identifying all material lists;
    • designing, packaging and shipping all the passive certified material, along with the information they require to build your home’s high-performance shell.
    • NOTE: This is no different from purchasing exterior siding from a particular vendor who supplies materials and instructions on how to install, which builders do regularly.
  3. Less profitable: The builder might perceive working with EkoBuilt as less profitable because they feel like they cannot add their margin to lumber and other components they might be used to purchasing locally to build and frame houses. We provide home owners with transparent access to the Weathertight Shell or building envelope materials kit pricing. Some builders are okay with not taking a margin on the EkoBuilt material kit and we have seen several instances of this. An alternative and fair model that we have seen work well is home owners negotiating a 10% to 15% margin for builders (usually general contractors, not individual trades) related to the EkoBuilt material kit prices.

Items your builder will need to price

ItemDescription of item builder must provide
FoundationSupply and install of ICF or Slab on Grade foundation as per drawings (include Styrofoam, Concrete and Rebar).
Installation of the Weathertight ShellBuilder to provide quote to frame the wall and roof assembly and to install the windows and doors.  EkoBuilt will provide materials for exterior wall assembly, roof assembly, interior partitions, exterior windows and doors as part of the building envelope or Weathertight Shell package.
Steel Roof CoverSteel roof cover (28 gauge or lower) supply and install.
Fascia / SoffitAluminum supply and install.
Exterior SidingSupply and Install, as per owner preference or provide budget for owner to select within budget (options are Engineered Wood Siding, Steel Siding, Stone Veneer Accents).
Insulation Wall (R-75), Roof (R110)Supply and Install blown-in cellulose insulation in the roof and walls.  We will provide 25LB bag count and guidelines on install.  
DrywallStandard drywall / gypsum board supply and install.
PlumbingPlumbing rough-ins, plumbing for all fixtures and provide budget for fixtures (sinks, showers, faucets, tubs) to be selected by owner.
ElectricalElectrical rough-ins, electrical for all fixtures and provide budget for wall plates and fixtures (lighting, fans, supplementary heaters) to be selected by owner.
HVACHVAC design, rough-ins and ducting for ERV, Supply and Install of Air Source based Heat Pump, High Efficiency ERV, Hot water tank as per HVAC design. Learn more about these elements.
(Broadband, Cable, Alarms, Net Metering, Solar)
Co-ordinate install of rough-ins and service drops for services required by owner.  This could be part of Electrical also.
Interior FinishesSupply and Install Flooring, Paint, Staircases (if applicable), Interior doors, Interior Baseboards, Window & Door casings, Closet shelves and rods, Tiles for bathrooms.
Kitchen & Bath VanitiesSupply and Install Kitchen and bathroom vanities.  Usually you could do this directly with a Kitchen provider who will design, let you pick finishes and co-ordinate the install.
AppliancesSupply & Install, if required by owner.  Usually, electrician and plumber will provide drops and owner co-ordinates could co-ordinate directly with appliance supplier to supply and install.
External StructuresSupply & Install Decks, Garages, Covered Porches, etc.
Project ManagementCo-ordinating all the build items above in the house and land below.
An EkoBuilt home under construction in 2023.

Land related pricing

The following is a list of land-related items your home builder will also need to provide pricing for:

Building Permit & Development Fees – Co-ordination of the building permit.  Depending on your comfort level – you could manage process yourself or have the builder manage it for you. 

Site Preparation & Excavation – Clearing, excavation, compacting the site, putting in a driveway (if required) and getting site ready for the build.

Septic – Supply and Install of Septic tank – If you will be on septic, you will require a design, permit, supply and install of the septic system. 

Well – Supply and Install of a well if you will be on well water, and not city water services. Additionally, supply and install of the filtration system (FS) and water conditioning system (WCS) for inside the house.

Backfill / Landscaping – After the build is complete, backfilling the foundation, slope & landscaping.

A tall three-storey passive home built by EkoBuilt in an urban neighbourhood.
This three-storey passive home was built by EkoBuilt in a dense, urban neighbourhood.

If you plan on building in a dense neighbourhood, you might be interested to know that we can offer prefabricated panels to make your build quicker!

Your passive home build

In the next post, we’ll get more into project management and other elements of your home’s build.

Ready to discuss your passive home? We’d love to talk – give us a shout!

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