What is a smart home anyway?
Energy Efficiency, Home Building trends, Passive House facts, Simply Sustainable

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.

2018 Ottawa Fall Home Show
EkoBuilt News & Happenings, Home Building trends, House Design

Ottawa Fall Home Show Ticket Winners

We have our winners! Congratulations to Lynda Larsen-Baldry, Sharon Irven, Renee Vanderkuip, G Bender, Renee Marcil, Rene Pouliot, Christine Hughes and Dennis Baril, all of whom have won tickets to attend the show next week.

We’re also delighted to announce that EkoBuilt will be the Official Coach Home Builder of the show and we look forward to speaking to homeowners exploring a coach home addition to their property. We’re also delighted to talk about the entire rang of our services and offerings.

Cartier table top fire featureCartier Tabletop Fire Giveaway

We’re also going to be giving away a Cartier tabletop fire feature from ethanol fireplace maker Eco-Feu of Montreal. The Cartier unit – paired with a 4 gallons of fuel – would normally total $308.80. Show attendees will be able to join our mailing list at the show, automatically entering the draw.

We will also have a complete Eco-Feu catalogue on hand so that attendees can see the other ethanol fire place/feature options. This is an important give away for us, as it helps with communicating the ease of heating a Passive House.

Get Tickets!

Finally, if you still need to buy tickets to the show, you can save $3 per ticket by purchasing online. CAA members are also eligible for a special discount.

Buy tickets to the 2018 Ottawa Fall Home Show.

2018 Ottawa Fall Home Show
EkoBuilt News & Happenings, Home Building trends, House Design

Win tickets to the 2018 Fall Home Show in Ottawa!

We have 20 tickets to give away to the 2018 edition of the Ottawa Fall Home Show! To enter the contest, just fill in our superfast questionnaire. We’ll pull the names this Thursday, 20 September (one week ahead of the event start).

2018 Ottawa Fall Home Show
27-30 September 2018
EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Drive
Ottawa, ON K1V 2N6

Home Building trends

Waterfront lots available on Bob’s Lake

A new development on Bob’s Lake, just 20 minutes from Perth, Ontario presents a great opportunity for anyone wanting their own bit of waterfront in the region. Nordlaw Cottages has been redeveloped on a site that was home to the former Nordlaw Lodge.

Sitting on 6.5 acres, this new cottage community includes 1,350 feet of waterfront and includes 18 lots of varying sizes in the design plan.

Residents would share common elements including main driveway, boat launch, beaches, docks, parking, etc.

At this point, the offering is also being packaged with a range of simple cottage designs. An 800-850 sq ft cottage would be approximately $250k.

Interested to know more? See video, development map, site plan and contact info below.

Bobs Lake development map

Nordlaw Cottages

David Simpson
Tel. 613-282-5601

Bob's Lake cottage development site plan

Tiny Tulip coach house plan
Coach / Tiny Homes, Energy Efficiency, Home Building trends

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.

Whole home ventilation explained
Energy & Household Trends, Energy Efficiency, Home Building trends

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)

 

 

Ottawa coch house costs
Coach / Tiny Homes, Energy Efficiency, Home Building trends

What it costs to build a coach house

Please note: as of March 2019 base pricing for coach house plans and basic shell installation have increased. The cost scenarios here will be affected in terms of total pricing as a result.

We have been receiving a tremendous amount of interest in our Coach House offering for the 2018 build season. We thought it would be appropriate to talk about future possibilities for everyone we haven’t heard from yet.

The new coach house regulations in Ottawa create a great opportunity for additional income in the form of a rental property and potentially even more income from an Airbnb format. It can also make for an economical in-law suite or starter home for a son or daughter.

Unlike most builders out in the marketplace, EkoBuilt is focused on building a style of home that is future-proof, something that will actually appreciate over time. Most builders design to today’s building code, and the real problem with this approach is that codes are starting to change dramatically.

This means that a home built to code standard today will be sub-standard come the next code change just four years from now.

Current building code is solid from a safety perspective, but the energy efficiency of most homes built to this code has not kept pace with drastically rising utility costs.

It doesn’t cost much extra to build ahead of code, so why not build to the future code standard? This is our approach and it just makes sense for anything truly designed to be a 21st century home.

To help in showing how possible it is to build to future code, we have prepared a cost analysis documentation for a couple of our designs.

Cost Analysis: Tiny Canuck

Tiny Canuck coach house plan

Tiny Canuck 499 sq.ft.

Size:  1 bedroom, 499 sq.ft.

Finished for $132,375:

  • that’s a $694 mortgage payment
  • rental $1250+ (including utilities), that’s a 56% ROI, beats the stock market.

Download the Tiny Canuck cost analysis


Cost Analysis: Nepean Point

Nepean Point tiny house plan

Nepean Point 720 sq.ft.

Size: 2 bedroom, 720. sq.ft.

Finished for $175,802:

  • that’s a $922 mortgage payment
  • rental $1750+ (including utilities), that’s a 53% ROI

Download the Nepean Point cost analysis

Including utilities would make these units really attractive to anyone in the market. Since the homes are ‘future proof’, they can be heated and cooled inexpensively with electricity (no gas/propane) which will be the fuel of the future.

Alternatively, if a coach house is built to current code standards, your mortgage rates may be slightly less (5%) but with substantially higher utilities, overall cost of living would be more expensive.

Coach House Plans: CodePlus & Passive House

Make sure you visit our Coach House Plans page and review the kit pricing for our coach house plans based on CodePlus and on the Passive House standard. Questions? We’d be happy to answer them!

Please get in touch with us to explore Coach House opportunities for your property!

Couple viewing potential land for their home
Energy & Household Trends, Home Building trends, House Design

Tips for purchasing land on which to build your home

Hoping to build your own home some day? Does it seem like a dream? It’s best to start planning as far ahead as possible. Here’s why:

The excitement and potential around building your own home are pretty special, but there is a lot of work that needs to go into the process before you ever get there. If any process deserves a long lead time, home building is it.

Considerations around location, availability and zoning of available land, whether to share or become part of a community with others, whether to build in an income component, and the type of structure you would build are just the starting points.

With land availability increasingly scarce in some areas, and energy costs rising, it’s important to get all of these things as right as you can.

1) How do you want to live?

  • Are you building for where you are now, or where you will be in a few years or more? Are you building a family home or for a single/couple? Will you work from home?
  • Do you like the idea of building a home with a community of other like minded folks?
  • Does your household have special needs?
  • With rising costs for home ownership, does it make sense to build in an income/rental component?

2) Where do you want to live?

It’s never too soon to start looking at available land and considering your options.

Urban or rural?

In an urban environment you will likely have to take land that’s available or find a property with an existing older home and rebuild. The rebuild may be the preferable option for most in order to be in the neighbourhood of choice and also for the property not to be subject to development costs which can be as high as $25,000-$30,000 in the city of Ottawa. If the property has an existing home on it, regardless of condition or age, the development fee is waived.

In rural areas or smaller towns it is still a good idea to pay attention to development fees. Using Ottawa as an example, the $25,000-$30,000 development fee within city limits could be reduced to as little as $3,500 in the surrounding townships.

Other factors to consider:

Lay of the land. This is important for some because it may dictate the style of foundation. For example, if you want a walkout basement, a sloped piece of land is necessary. On the flip side, if no basement is preferred, then a relatively flat piece of property is required.

Orientation. In order to maximize solar gain, it is important to have access to the sun and this means designing the house to face within 20° of due south. In a town or city, streets that run north to south are preferred instead of east to west for privacy reasons. For example, if a street runs east to west, a house on the north side of the road has its south side facing the street. As living areas would normally be placed on this side of a home, there is a potential loss of privacy particularly if the home needs to be positioned very close to the road.

Water quality. It’s a good idea to research depths of wells if the property is located outside of a municipal area. Deep wells (greater than 250 to 300 feet deep) normally have higher concentrations of minerals which may require a large water treatment system. Well records in the province of Ontario are public information so it’s very easy to see the results.

3) Budget: To build & to live

There is a budget for building, and then there is a budget for living, and as energy prices rise the latter is getting more attention from homeowners.

Ottawa coach house plans by EkoBuilt

EkoBuilt’s Mooneys Pad tiny house plan

EkoBuilt offers pre-existing energy efficient house plans to suit many different lifestyles, including tiny/coach house options. Many of our clients like to start with one of our plans, and then customize to best meet their personal needs and preferences, but we can also start from scratch. Working with pre-existing plans provides great benefit in terms of proven models of energy efficiency, layout convenience, and – of course – budget.

EkoBuilt also offers a key array of house performance models for your home, including Code Plus (a home built to the Code standards projected for 2030), Passive House (a home that is 90% better than Code), and even Net Zero (a home which produces as much energy as it uses).

The best investment you can make is in the most energy efficient home that you can afford to build, as you will get the best return on that same investment. Imagine simply not having to worry about steeply climbing energy bills.

4) How will you build?

Finding a builder who understands what you want to achieve and can work with you to do so, is critical. At EkoBuilt, we welcome clients who want to save on the build cost by doing some or all of their own work, when circumstances allow. We also work with clients who need us to do everything from start to finish.

The earlier in the process that we can have a conversation, the more we can help you consider the best and most cost effective ways of achieving your dream. Make time to sit down with us today, even if you can’t foresee being in a position to build for two or three years.

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash
Healthy Living, Home Building trends

Even small homes need Heat Recovery Ventilation systems

A recent article in The Ottawa Citizen advised against installing an HRV in a small home – we disagree.

The author maintains that “The cost of losing precious living space to the HRV itself and to the air ducts is just too high given the benefits that an HRV offers in a small space like yours.” We disagree on a couple of counts:

In the first instance, every house built in Ontario since January 2017, regardless of size, has required an HRV. It’s not an option, it’s a legal requirement!

In the second, the article’s author also maintains that “Opening a window or two a little and running exhaust fans more often and longer will also push stale air outdoors and bring fresh air in.”

We don’t understand why someone in even the smallest house would want to regularly naturally ventilate their home in the winter because it will cost more to continually heat the cold air that keeps being introduced. A big part of building tiny is to save money not to spend more.

Lunos HRV unitThere is, in fact, an HRV for every application.

The Lunos system is a 90% efficient heat recovery system designed for small spaces. Many passive homes use this system: http://www.lunoscanada.com/index.html

The Lunos HRV uses the wall cavity so no extra space is required in a utility room.

If you live in Ontario and are building a new home, you are required to have an HRV system. Make sure you get the right one for the size of your home.