Graphic courtesy of
Energy Efficiency, Home Building Resources, House Design, Simply Sustainable

Add a little inspiration to your spring

It’s feeling like spring really has sprung, and it seems like a good idea to share some of the inspirational ideas we’ve been storing away over the winter. Fun and clever stuff that will get the cogs in your brain whirring!

Making your old wood ‘pallet-able’

How to upcycle pallets into “rustic-industrial” stuff for your home

Pallet safety infographicThis article from was recently shared on Treehugger.

It helps to determine which pallets are safe to use, and which are not, and also contains a fun and informative infographic on how to prepare pallets for whatever project you might have in mind.

Also from is Home Improvement Projects You Can Do with Reclaimed Wood, which gets the same cool infographic treatment, making for a quick and lively review of some neat design options.


Passive house on wheels anyone?

Cargo van conversionDigital nomad’s ultra-minimalist van conversion includes hidden bike rack (Video)

We’ve all seen our fill of tiny home projects, including many models designed for hitting the road. This sleek cargo van conversion is a really cool addition to the options available to anyone wanting to live on the road.

Just plain cool

10 Ways to Repurpose Vintage Furniture (Apartment Therapy)
All-in-one cube is ‘room within a room’ that hides bed, bike, closet & office (Treehugger)
Genius Trash to Treasure Crafts (Good Housekeeping)

Happy Spring!

Kitchen design on Houzz
Home Building Resources, House Design

2017 Kitchen Design Trends According to Houzz

Kitchen design on Houzz

Photo courtesy of Houzz

Design mecca Houzz has released its Kitchen Trends Study for 2017. The study polled nearly 3,000 users who are planning, executing or have recently finished a kitchen renovation. Results point to newer trends like shiplap, continuing ones like stainless steel, and changing tastes in counter tops, as well as custom storage.

We like that kitchen renos have a great way of helping homeowners to focus on their health. A revitalized kitchen tends to lead to a clearer, improved focus on cooking.

Read the full 2017 Kitchen Design Trends Report here.

You might also like:

Kitchen Design in a Passive House
Energy Efficient Appliances for Your Home

Low energy house with double car garage
Home Building Resources, House Design

Garages & carports for the low energy home

Over the past year we have been asked a number of times if garages/carports are possible with the lower energy homes and the answer is, yes – absolutely, why not?

While a stand alone garage or outbuilding has its advantages, for many of us living in colder climates, there are real benefits to a structure that is attached to the home. What’s important is that the garage or carport is constructed in such a way that it does not compromise the weathertight shell of the home, and this is easily done.

We’ve prepared revised sketches of three of EkoBuilt’s low energy home designs to incorporate a garage or carport.

Low energy home with carport

Low energy home with carport

The Stonecrop design with optional carport

Low energy house design with carport

Foxglove design with integrated carport

If there was one limiting factor to incorporating a garage, it would be to not place it on the southern side of the home as this would block the sun. Any other side would be fine.

Introducing a carport or garage actually provides opportunities to add further interest and utility to your home’s exterior, and to create defined outdoor areas for patios, gardens and other features.

The concept below, which shows a double car garage added onto the Trillium model (the EkoModel Home that we’ve been building this year), illustrates how a lovely space would be created on the south-facing wall of the home that would anchor a garden or seating / outdoor dining area. This is actually highly practical, as the door immediately to the left of the garage exits from the home’s living and dining area, just steps from the kitchen.

Trillium house plans with double car garage

Low energy house with double car garage

The Trillium model with optional 2-car garage

View all of EkoBuilt’s house plans, including the models showing sample carport and garage placement.

We’re delighted to work with you to discuss optimal design and placement for any of our low energy house plans. Sample cost per square footage: approx $35/sq ft for a carport, $55/sq for attached garage. Contact us for details.

Don’t forget that you can come out for a walk-through the EkoModel Home this weekend for International Passive House Days.

International Passive House Days poster
House Design

International Passive House Days come to Ottawa

Passive House residents around the world open their doors Nov 11th – 13th, 2016. Get first hand experience of the many advantages Passive Houses offer. The EkoModel Home near Ottawa is nearly complete, so this is a great time to visit our project and check out others in the area.

Find Homes in Your Area

Ottawa Passive House with double car garage

Wondering what your passive house might look like with a garage or carport? So did we! Our next blog post will focus on design options for these practical elements.

To search on participating homes in Ottawa, Eastern Ontario, or wherever you live, use the Passive House Database.

The listing for the EkoModel Home, including its passive house credentials, can be found at listing 5081 on the Passive House Database.

Please come out and visit our four-bedroom, 2,509 sq ft passive house on any of the following days:

Fri, 11 Nov: 9-5pm
Sat, 12 Nov: 9-5pm
Sun, 13 Nov: 9-5pm

See complete house plans for the EkoBuilt Trillium passive house right here.

House Design

Ottawa Passive House Tour

Having recently tackled painting and flooring, and with appliances and cabinetry in place, the EkoModel Ottawa Passive House is nearly done. Today we’ll take you on a photo tour of the house.

A quick note on finishes

In today’s photo tour you’ll notice some finishes that we’ll share in more detail in future posts, including:

  • the reclaimed birch flooring from Log’s End that we used on the upper level (which contains the open loft, three children’s bedrooms and a shared bathroom)
  • the concrete floor with sealant that we used on the ground floor
  • the Big Ass fan that anchors the loft above the great room
  • the energy efficient pot lights that are used throughout the house

Ottawa Passive House Photo Gallery

Hover over the images for captions or click on any image to launch the full image carousel.

Home Building Resources, House Design

Kitchen design in a passive house

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of interest in the kitchen space when we recently took part in Green Energy Doors Open. The hub of any home, the kitchen is a space that inspires and drives enthusiasm in any home building project.

We had a lot of fun planning the kitchen, which sits at one end of the ground floor of the Trillium floor plan that we  used for the house. As seen in the picture below, the one change we made to the original plan was to remove two of the walls to the home office, incorporating it into the main, open plan space. A short knee wall provides a practical work space defining feature that also helps to hide any clutter from the main living space and the home’s entrance.

Ottawa passive house kitchen design and layout

Click to enlarge

The kitchen is based on a tight work triangle, making it very efficient to work in, and has a breakfast bar/island that is open to the living/dining area. There is a window out to the front of the house, and a clear sightline through the large glass doors off the dining area to the back garden.

Very high ceilings allowed us to introduce 9′ tall upper cabinets – these are not practical for every day items, but make for great storage of holiday and seasonal items which aren’t needed regularly. A deep pantry under the stairs at the kitchen entrance is another great practical feature.

Counters: Canadian soapstone

Ottawa passive house kitchen layout from EkoBuilt

Click to enlarge

Soapstone is the only naturally nonporous and unmanufactured stone available in the countertop world.  It is simply cut from the quarry and installed to fit.

Our counters are from Canadian Soapstone.

Soapstone is known for:

Longevity and durability
Nonporous nature
Being locally sourced

Cabinets: UniBoard product

All cabinets in the kitchen are made from UniBoard particle board. All UniBoard wood fibre content is from recycled, recovered or post consumer sources, making it a very sustainable choicel.

It is also a healthy material having fulfilled the requirements of:

  • eco-certified composites (ECC)
  • sustainability standard and California air resources Board (CARB)
  • airborne toxic control measure (ATCM)

Still to come:

Above the stove we will be installing a non-vented fan instead of a conventional fan, which is typically connected to the outside. This prevents massive air leakage which affects the energy performance of the home. Unvented fans are state of the art these days and do a great job with the use of carbon filters.

On the stove wall we also plan to install some open concept shelves and racks to lend a restaurant vibe to the space.

Watch for final styling shots of the kitchen and the home later in 2016 and early in 2017.




House Design, Passive House

Why a low slope roof makes sense

Southern elevation of Ottawa passive house by EkoBuilt

EkoModel Home – southern elevation

The EkoModel Home was designed with a low slope roof, a smart feature shared by all 13 of EkoBuilt’s passive house plans.

This style of roof greatly reduces construction costs, and also introduces great strength and stability, which is a tremendous benefit in our part of Canada where snow loads in the winter can be incredibly deep and heavy.

While a standard cathedral ceiling roof rafter is required by current code to be 12 inches deep to carry snow loads, our passive house rafters are 30 inches deep. The depth originally designed for increased insulation (typically three times that for a conventional build) lends amazing strength for those snow loads.

As Europeans – who have lived with high utility costs for many years – understand innately, a low slope roof offers tremendous cost savings in the long run. North Americans are only just starting to come around to the wisdom of this roof-style, as they realize how important reducing energy costs will be the further we move into the 21st century.

A number of key factors go into an effective low slope roof, including the following:

Roofing underlayment

As part of our standard PassiveHouse package, we include the installation of a high temperature ice/water membrane which completely waterproofs the roof and is guaranteed for 50 years. It is specifically designed for low slope roofs as low as 0.5 inch (2 1/2°), and is able to withstand temperatures of up to 121°C!

The membrane that we use is WinterGuard HT Advanced Waterproofing Underlayment by CertainTeed. For more detail:

See product details on CertainTeed’s website.
Review the WinterGuard HT brochure [pdf]

Roof cover

Another important factor is to reduce the heat island effect by making use of cool roof technology. The term “heat island”describes built areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The annual mean temperature of a city with 1 million people can be 1 – 3°C warmer than its surroundings. By the evening this difference can rise to around 12°C.

Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat related illness and mortality, as well as water quality.

High solar reflectivity [albedo] is the most important characteristic of a cool roof as it helps to reflect sunlight and heat away from a building. Cool roof technology can reduce a roof’s temperature by 28 to 33°C during summer weather.

More information

Information on Heat Islands (US Environmental Protection Agency)
Using Cool Roofs to Reduce Heat Islands (EPA)

Wakefield Bridge steel shingles

Click to enlarge image

We chose to use Ideal Steel’s Wakefield Bridge Steel Shingles because they have the most advanced cool metal roof technology we could find. The special resin paint system used results in a high albedo factor; there are a range of colours available.

Added benefits of Wakefield Bridge Steel Shingle roofing:

  • Manufactured from recycled and new steel
  • 50 year warranty
  • Cost-effective at approximately $2 per square foot

More information

Product brochure for Wakefield Bridge Steel Shingles [pdf]

Soffit and fascia


Click to enlarge image

Finally, additional roof finishes include aluminum soffit and fascia, chosen for being inexpensive, clean lines and excellent ventilation properties for a steel roof.

Together, all of these elements work together to make for a high performance, low cost roof that will help to keep more money in your pocket now, and in the future.

EkoBuilt is here to help those who are thinking a little ahead of the curve to maximize their home’s beauty while making the most of its energy efficiency and comfort. Get in touch to find out more.

Energy & Household Trends, Energy Efficiency, House Design, Passive House

July’s heat won’t keep you warm this winter

ProCell Blue insulation

Click for Thermocell website

Since launching the blog for our Ottawa Passive House project this spring, the most popular post has been Insulation in a Passive House. We’re never surprised when posts focusing on design – like the one on Douglas Fir timbers in home design – prove popular, but you clearly love the practical stuff too.

No surprise, really, when you consider that good insulation will make your home comfortable, energy efficient and healthy.

The EkoBuilt Model Home is insulated with Thermocell’s ProCell Blue, a blown cellulose insulation. In our books, this is the most cost-effective insulation on the market. For a side-by-side cost  and effectiveness comparison with insulation more typically found in conventional house builds, see below.

But what else should you know about ProCell Blue?

  1. It’s affordable – similar in cost to batts or loose fill fibreglass.
  2. It’s eco-friendly – being made with 100% post-consumer recycled newsprint.
  3. It’s high performance – with superior thermal, acoustical and fire resistant properties.
  4. It’s healthy – safe and non-toxic, it will not cause skin irritation or itching while also repelling insects and rodents.
  5. It’s easy – being straightforward and versatile to apply, offering seamless coverage.
  6. It will save you money – trimming easily 20 to 30% off your home’s energy bills.

If you want to learn more, follow the link to Thermocell’s website.

Cost comparison: conventional application vs. passive house application

northern elevation of the ottawa passive house

Northern Elevation

For the purposes of comparison, let’s use EkoBuilt’s Trillium Passive House plan: this four-bedroom home includes 2250 ft.² of roof space and 3300 ft.² of wall space.

Below are comparison costs for three different insulation options for the Trillium house plan:

Conventional application
Wall insulation value = R22
Roof insulation value = R40
Cost of rockwool batt insulation = $15,600
Cost of spray foam insulation = $17,900

PassiveHouse application
Wall insulation value = R75
Roof insulation value = R120
Cost of ProCell Blue cellulose insulation = $18,250

As you can see, we’re achieving three times the insulation value at very little additional cost. We’re also getting the benefit of an amazing product that uses a natural stabilizer, borate, which renders it completely fire retardant, mold and mildew proof, as well as insect proof. What more could you ask for?

EkoBuilt’s ProCell Blue Installer

Please feel free to contact our Ottawa-area insulation installer to get a quote or more information for your own home insulation:
Cliff Antonakos

Munster Joinery windows and doors for the Ottawa passive house
Energy & Household Trends, Energy Efficiency, House Design

Windows & Doors for the Energy Efficient Home

When it came time to choose energy efficient windows and doors for the passive house that we’re constructing, the decision was obvious. Ireland’s Munster Joinery makes windows and doors that are three times better in performance than any North American options.

Europe has embraced the Passive House standard more quickly and readily than North America, so it’s not surprising to find that it is home to a large number of suppliers who can provide the right materials and finishes for PassiveHouse projects at competitive pricing and superior quality.


Energy efficient windows from Munster Joinery of IrelandFor the EkoModel Home, we chose the PassiV uPVC Tilt & Turn Window. This model comes in vinyl, aluminum and wood; we chose vinyl as the most energy efficient and cost effective option.

These windows, which are so much more energy efficient than North American units but similar in price, simply made sense for the EkoModel Home.


Similar to the window options, Munster Joinery doors also come in vinyl, aluminum and wood options.

Munster Joinery also offers the option of timber doors and windows which have been clad in aluminum; these are considered to be a good all-weather option with enhanced aesthetic appeal for some homeowners.

About Munster Joinery

Munster Joinery logoMunster Joinery is one of the largest manufacturers of energy efficient windows and doors in Europe. Founded in 1973, the company has continued to offer new products, materials and processes throughout its four decades. The company has operations in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

You can get a feel for the windows in the EkoModel Home from this photos from our timber frame post (click to enlarge):

South facing wall of the EkoBuilt model home
House Design

Douglas Fir timbers in home design

Passive house by Ekobuilt with timberframing

South facing wall of the EkoBuilt model home (click to enlarge)

Many of us want to incorporate natural elements into our homes as a way of making the built environment more welcoming, and a great way of achieving this is through the use of natural wood timbers.

The allure of Douglas Fir timbers is reflected in many online and print home design resources. At EkoBuilt, we started out as timberframers, and we continue to incorporate beautiful timbers in our passive house design.

The EkoBuilt Model Home uses Douglas Fir timbers as structural and accent beams. Douglas Fir, an evergreen conifer species native to British Columbia, is an exceptional choice for its strength to weight ratio, the long lasting nature of its heartwood, its fine knot-free grain, its ability to dry and season quickly with very little warping or distortion, and its general beauty. This wood also resists decay, making it a very healthy wood to have in your home.

When the timbers arrived at the EkoBuilt building site, they were extremely rough. Clean up with a chain saw revealed the fine wood grain and squared up the timbers. Once positioned, the beams were sanded and they are now ready for a coat of natural stain that will enhance the wood grain and extend its life. These photos were taken last week, just as we were preparing to apply stain to the timbers and paint to the walls.

Click to see full size images.