We field requests constantly from people interested in building a passive house, including using one of our 13 energy efficient house plans. We’ve been working towards having cost analysis documents for complete house builds for all 13 of our plans, and now they are ready!
After a short delay in the project we’re back at full steam. Just 2 interior townhome units available! Imagine a home with no gas bill and no electric bill thanks to being on the net metering program!
We’re starting 2019 with a great variety of projects, including single family homes, a two-family shared home, a net-zero multi-unit project and a very modern passive summer camp. Read along to learn more!
Many of you have indicated that you’d like to hear from us about retrofitting older homes, and we love that idea too. We know not everyone is in the market for a brand new home!
There are a lot of good reasons to address the comfort and energy efficiency of an older home, particularly if you live in a neighbourhood that you love and don’t wish to leave. Staying in place and fixing what’s not working about your older home could be a really smart decision.
Much of our audience is in the Ottawa area, and a lot of great neighbourhoods full of older homes spring to mind.
So what to do when your home is many decades old, drafty and dependent on steep energy bills to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter?
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?
A 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.
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.
Congratulations 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.
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 might also like HRV Units and the Passive House (2016, EkoBuilt blog)
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
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.
Cost Analysis: Nepean Point
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
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!
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.
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.
A modified version of EkoBuilt’s Primrose house plan is currently being built on Danford Lake near Kazabazua, about an hour north of Ottawa. This is a great illustration of the process that we find works the best with the great majority of homeowners: take on one of our 13 house plans and then modify or customize to best suit your needs.
This homeowner is working with us for the design and construction process, and will implement finishes themselves – another great example of the myriad of ways it’s possible to realize the build and finishing of a new home.
When to Include a Basement
We often get asked the question, can we have a basement? This project is a good example of when you can.
The inclusion of a basement in house design comes down to the property and its slope. Some properties will easily support a basement, as with this project, which is situated on natural sloped ground leading down to a lake. A walkout basement was cost-effective to include in this case.
Other properties may not easily support a basement and our demonstration home is a good example of this, being on a clay-based soil with a high water table. A basement in this case would be a bad idea so we instead installed a super-insulated slab on grade foundation over top of an elevated gravel pad. Basement design should always be dictated by the ground on which the home will be constructed.
The Primrose bungalow, on which this home in Kazabazua is based, encompasses just under 1,600 square feet of living space, and features 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.
Click to view full size images. You can also download the Primrose plans.
Kazabazua Home’s Modified Plans
This project takes the Primrose plan as its basis, and introduces changes to best suit the lifestyle of the homeowners. The ground floor grew to 1,955 square feet and features the addition of a sunroom. The sloping ground on which the home is being built also supports the inclusion of a walkout basement, and the storage/mechanical room is situated on this lower level.
Click to view full size images.