EkoBuilt Project: Urban home in central Ottawa

This new custom home is just a stone’s throw from the Governor General’s residence in central Ottawa. It’s a great example of flexibility in an urban setting. The home is situated on an unserviced laneway in a historic neighbourhood just east of the city’s downtown core. The home’s design had to be approved by the city’s historical committee before a building permit could be obtained. Construction was made much more interesting because the nearest intersection was closed throughout for the installation of a storm water collection facility!

All of these challenges made building this home exciting and rewarding. The family we built it for really love the area and it’s fantastic to share the end result with our followers.

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What is a smart home anyway?

Measuring how smart a home really is

When we talk about ‘smart homes’, there is a general bias towards technology. Consider this definition:

Standard smart home definition: noun “a home equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by phone or computer.”

At EkoBuilt, we see the smartness in homes very differently, using a sustainability lens.

EkoBuilt smart home definition: noun “a home designed to be autonomous without the use of electronic devices for heating or ventilation control.”

We also think the smartest homes can be affordably net-zero, taking their energy from renewable energy sources. Truly there is much confusion over what a smart home really is. Conventional thinking holds that a ‘smart home’ is one that uses more technology for control. But is that really very smart?

Shouldn’t a truly smart home need less technology?

We feel that a smart home is one that uses the least technology possible. It’s possible to design homes that don’t require all kinds of devices for control.

For example, a home should not need to be heated when the occupants are not there, and blinds should not be required because unwanted heat needs to be kept out. In a true passive house excess technology is not required because the space requires little heating or air-conditioning to be comfortable.

Using energy from the sun as a heat source, the home can be heated naturally even in extremely cold conditions. To reduce the need for air conditioning in hot summers, windows are strategically located to naturally shade themselves so unwanted heat is not coming into the home. This is a smart home!

It is more sustainable, and much smarter to use less technology, both environmentally and physically. There is simply no need to have a wi-fi thermostat. Why spend money to operate a furnace in an occupied or unoccupied home when you don’t have to? It is smart to spend as little money and to acquire as few devices for your home as possible.

Why passive homes are the smartest homes

Our point is of course, to communicate the intelligence of building to the passive house standard. It is, after all, the only truly resilient home known to man.

It is a home that uses so little fuel to heat and cool the space that the electric bills are approximately the same amount every month of the year, whether the home is being heated or not.

Not to be coy, every house, even a passive house, requires a heating system – especially in this part of Canada – but the passive house leaks so little heat (even during extreme cold conditions) that it costs very little to keep the space heated. Less energy, in fact, than a refrigerator uses in a year. Now, that’s a smart home.

Ever compared your home to a thermos?

Thermos passive house analogyA passive house is as close as you can get to living in a thermos! The key difference is the passive space has constant access to fresh air, while a thermos does not.

Seriously though – a good thermos can keep keep tea extremely hot for 24 hours, which is really quite unbelievable when you think about it. Well, a passive house is basically the same thing in a home. And that really is a smart home.

From a health perspective, it’s much safer to live in an environment virtually free of interior toxins or exterior pollution (propane or gas emissions), full of ample fresh air, and designed to last generations. Again, that’s a smart home.

Another vital feature of a truly smart home is that it be electrically operated. We’ve come to the point where a home designed to operate by propane and/or gas, is a home designed for the past. Fossil fuels are not the way forward. Homes for today and tomorrow need to be 100% electrically operated — it’s simply the only fuel source for sustainability. It’s also the best for our health and for our pocketbooks.

A home that helps to create a healthier environment is a home that is healthier for us, and energy savings translate into lower operating costs, and that means more money in our pockets.

In conclusion, a truly smart home designed for today should be one that is built to passive house standards. Realistically, every home in the near future will be required to be built this way, but why wait when you can start now!

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about building your passive home.

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Passive House Days 2018 and another Eco-Feu giveaway!

With International Passive House Days 2018 on the horizon, we’re getting excited about connecting with Ottawa area residents who want to know more about EkoBuilt’s passive house and sustainable home building options. Sadly, a tornado blighted the lives of some local residents on the same weekend as Green Energy Doors Open and we just didn’t get the turnout that we normally would.

There is another chance to chat with us in the EkoModel Home, from November 9-11, 2018. We hope you’ll come out with your questions and to experience the comfort of this super energy efficient home, a great example of what we can do.

You could win!

Cartier table top fire featureAnyone visiting us that weekend will have the chance to join our mailing list and go into the draw for a Cartier tabletop fire feature from Eco-Feu of Montreal!

Already on the mailing list? You can still enter the draw by sharing with us what topics you’d like to see us delve into on the EkoBuilt blog and on social media.

The Cartier unit when paired with a 4 gallons of fuel retails for $308.80.

We will also have a complete Eco-Feu catalogue on hand so that you can see the other ethanol fire place/feature options.

We’re delighted to continue our focus on this giveaway; it really helps with communicating the ease of heating a Passive House.

Please let us know if you’re planning to visit on the Nov 9-11 weekend, we’d love to see you!

 


Tiny Tulip coach house plan

Coach Homes of Ottawa: Your Questions Answered

After a month of intense activity at some great shows where we met a lot of great folks, it’s time to get back to the topics that you’ve asked to hear more about. Chief among those is coach homes and tiny homes, and there is definitely an intersection between our energy efficient coach house plans and anyone interested in living small.

Many of you have already familiarized yourselves with the essentials of our coach house offering, so in this post we’re enhancing that information for those of you who are clearly entertaining the notion of building to this scale. Here are the questions we get most frequently:

Are the plans customizable?

Ottawa coach house plans by EkoBuilt

EkoBuilt’s Mooneys Pad tiny house plan

Indeed they are! While we currently offer 8 coach house plans, we can modify any of them or create new plans from scratch.

We are a complete design/build firm and love the challenge of finding the best design for each client’s particular needs and preferences.

What can I build on my property?

This is definitely a question for a City of Ottawa development officer, reachable at 613-580-2424. A call to the City will help to clarify any specific limitations or considerations for your property. We can also help with interpreting the information you receive from the City, as we deal with this regularly.

How do your costs compare?

EkoBuilt’s costs appear to be approximately 10 – 12% higher than some of our competition, which results in an additional $20,000 on average by project. But consider this:

Building codes are becoming stricter every year and adopting the most energy efficient build that you can afford now is well worth it. It’s wise to protect your coach house investment by building to the passive house standard in order to keep pace with changing codes (in fact, you’ll stay ahead of codes and recoup your costs and more over time).

EkoBuilt is quite unique in its approach and can work with you to build to the standard that best fits your current budget while protecting your investment for the long run.

Definitely read our post What it costs to build a coach house.

Do we need solar panels?

Solar panels can be used for additional economic benefit, offsetting Hydro bills, but they are not required. In our design and construction we are mainly focused on saving money through a focus on super energy efficiency.

For those interested in solar panels, one of the greatest benefits of our coach homes is they are easily net zero (able to produce as much energy as they use) which results in a complete offset of your utility bills. An approximate $10,000 investment in solar panels is a good baseline.

Ottawa Coach House Essentials

Make sure you review everything in our Coach House section, and please reach out to us if you’re thinking about:

  • simply living small
  • a home office or home studio
  • a secondary dwelling
  • an in-law suite
  • a rental unit / Air B&B

We can help you to consider all of the angles and to come up with the smartest plan for you.


Our experience at Toronto’s Green Living Show 2018

We were delighted to take part in the Toronto Green Living Show this year. It was a great event that really felt like a 21st-century show!

There were electric cars from a number of different companies, lithium ion power walls, vertical gardens for your living room, vertical farming out of a container, and geodesic domes where you can grow produce year round even in our climate.

We loved being part of the showcase of green living options and really enjoyed talking about about our electrically operated homes, which are designed to cost just pennies a day to operate.

Cartier table top fire featureCongratulations to the winner of our Eco-Feu raffle at the show, Stephanie Hahn of New Hamburg, Ontario.

Stephanie won a Cartier tabletop unit from Eco-Feu. These ethanol units make perfect centerpieces and/or accent lighting. Burning for 2 to 3 hours, they feature a soothing, vibrant, real flame.

The future is now and we need to embrace it! Photos below from the event.

Check out this video about the Green Living Show from The Tesla Model 3 owners club.

 

Photo Gallery


Whole home ventilation explained

Whole home ventilation: ERV and HRV explained

We recently came across a great, highly informative article on whole home ventilation for anyone looking at building a new home. Six Steps to Success With Heat-Recovery Ventilation by Bruce Sullivan was first published on the Green Building Advisor blog.

The article explains the difference between HRV/ERV and the necessity for highly efficient fresh air machines. At EkoBuilt, we prefer ERV (energy recovery ventilators) over HRV (heat recovery ventilators) because modern buildings should not only be airtight but also vapour tight.

It is extremely important for long term building health to make sure there is no condensation within a wall cavity. An ERV in a vapour tight house is able to maintain comfortable humidity inside the building while removing excess moisture (anything above 60% humidity). These machines also offer a constant fresh air supply for a healthy interior environment.

You can read the full article on the Green Building Advisor blog.

Related Content

You might also like HRV Units and the Passive House (2016, EkoBuilt blog)