Couple viewing potential land for their home
Energy & Household Trends, Home Building Resources, 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
Energy efficient home under construction near Kazabazua
EkoBuilt Projects, House Design

New house build in Kazabazua

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

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.

Construction Gallery

 

EkoBuilt Projects, Home Building Resources, Solar Power

Ottawa Infill House Project

One of the projects currently underway with EkoBuilt is an infill home in central Ottawa. This house is being built to Code Plus standard and is currently being insulated; drywall to start this week.

EkoBuilt’s Code Plus framework designs to the projected building code standard of 2030 when it’s estimated that minimum exterior wall insulation will be R32 (currently R22), and roof insulation will be a minimum of R50 (currently R32).

The house also has a 10 kW solar array attached to the Ontario Micro fit program. Watch for more updates this winter.

 

Child's bedroom in energy efficient home plan
Energy & Household Trends, Energy Efficiency, Home Building Resources, House Design

Energy efficient home plans are essential

If you’re planning on building a new home, you’ve got a chance to get it right from day one. Low energy bills, a healthy and supremely comfortable living environment, great design – what’s not to love?

Energy efficient home plans are the key ingredient to an energy efficient home, along with energy efficient materials and building technologies, and – of course – a builder who understands how to make the most of all of these.

Energy efficient home plans from EkoBuiltWhy are they so important?

Home plans that have been developed by an experienced home builder over time will take into account myriad factors, including the best distances for work areas in a kitchen, ideal corridor and flow pathways, orientation of private spaces to public ones, relationships of the indoors to the outdoors, etc. But there is much more to a home than floorplans.

An energy efficient home plan will also take into account things like roof slope and style, overhangs, maximizing window size on south and west facing walls, etc.

Will you know an energy efficient plan when you see it?

Possibly not. Unless you know the right things to look for, you may not be able to pick out the best options. An energy efficient home builder will be able to guide you in selecting from the best plans, can work with you to further customize those base plans to best suit your needs, preferences and budget, and will know the appropriate building materials and systems required to realize the build properly. The right builder will stay abreast of the best home building technologies and approaches for reducing a home’s energy footprint.

Why EkoBuilt?

Child's bedroom in energy efficient home plan

A child’s bedroom in the EkoBuilt model home. Although curtains have been added for light control, they aren’t needed for warmth. The Munster windows are incredibly well sealed and energy efficient.

After years of building custom and energy efficient homes for customers, the EkoBuilt team has years of experience in designing and building homes, and this experience has translated into the 13 energy efficient home plans from our Passive House line, as well as 8 tiny/coach house plans for secondary dwellings/rental properties and tiny home enthusiasts.

The 13 passive house plans that we’ve developed encompass both two-storey and bungalow styles, all boast low-slope roofs with large overhangs, and each one is designed to maximize the placement and size of south and west-facing windows.

These house plans also build on years spent accumulating knowledge of the best kinds of home floorplans to cater to different lifestyles and life phases. Some of our plans will be better suited to individuals, retired couples or those without children, while others are more clearly family/multi-resident homes.

All of the plans include an optional basement with lower-level access, and all can be paired with an energy efficient garage, as required.

Homes designed to take advantage of electricity – the fuel of the future

These homes are easily and cheaply run using an air to air source heat pump which can heat a home for less than $30/month (electricity) during the coldest months of winter. Really!

And, as noted above, we’re always delighted to work with clients to customize one of our plans to best suit their design preferences, budget and needs. We can help you think through how you live and how your home’s design can best support that.

Most importantly, we can help you end up with the most delightfully comfortable and healthy home, that is also the most energy efficient one possible to build currently.

Get in touch

Tell about your dreams and plans; we’ll help you choose the best energy efficient house plan and show you how to make it your reality.

Read more about the EkoModel Home, which demonstrates all of these principles.

EkoBuilt's passive house solar engine
Energy & Household Trends, Energy Efficiency, Passive House facts

Reflecting on a warm winter in the EkoModel Home

The sub-title for this post really should be “how comfortable is a passive house in winter?” And the answer is: very!

Okay, so the sun has been shining and we’re feeling the summer’s warmth, but cast your mind back to the long, grey winter we had here in the Ottawa Valley. Not for long, just long enough to picture the environment in which the EkoModel passive house spent its first winter.

Although the average temperature for the area was roughly -5.5C from December through March, December and January both saw some supremely cold days: -28C the low in December, -25C the low in January. Throughout the period we kept the house at steady 21C for daytime and evening; overnight, with no heating, the temperature would make a gentle fall to 18 or 19C by morning.

Having lived in homes in the past where keeping the temperature at 21C would have been too costly, this round the clock comfort was the revelation we hoped it would be. Both floors of the home, including the upstairs bedrooms, maintained these temperatures – no ‘cool spots’ as in many older homes.

The Eko Solar Engine - passive house infographic

Click to learn about the EkoBuilt solar engine that heats (and cools) this passive house

All of this was achieved using an average of just 31.75 kWh per day – which may not seem that low, until you remember that this passive house has NO FURNACE. That hydro-electricity usage simply represents the operation of the ‘solar engine’ components (including a fresh air exchanger, and an air-to-air heating and cooling pump) of the house, and daily living (lights, cooking, heating water*, PC and television usage) of a family of five.

So, our total energy bills for the four deep winter months was $801.48 (or $200/month).

*We heat our water to 120C.

An interesting note on Sunny Days

If it was a sunny day and we had approximately six hours of sun or more pouring through the south facing windows, we did not need to use the heating system at all.

The sun had no problem raising the temperature of the house from 19°C in the morning to about 24°C in the afternoon, in which case the temperature would drop to about 22°C in the evening and hover at about 20°C in the morning. Amazing!

 

What we’ll do differently next year

Overall, the house performed as expected, and the very low energy usage (seen here) and bills, even in a cold, grey winter, are great practical evidence. Less easy to share, but no less significant, is the supreme comfort that we enjoyed all winter long.

Hydry usage for the EkoBuilt passive house in winter 2017

Looking ahead to next year, we’re considering installing an ethanol (biofuel) fireplace. These units are a very simple and clean alternative to wood burning fireplaces and woodstoves, and their benefits are amplified in a passive house, where much less heat input is required to warm the home, and a fresh oxygen supply with good airflow is continually available.

There is a great overview of ethanol fireplaces on Houzz, and again we’d underscore the greater benefit to a passive house over a conventional build. In brief, this heating method has a very small environmental footprint, is low maintenance and attractive. We see this heat source as a great alternative when sunshine is severely limited, as it was this past winter in the Ottawa Valley. Any successful system has a built-in backup, and this looks like a great way to round out the solar engine that is driving our passive house.

Questions about the passive house performance?

If you have questions or thoughts about our passive home’s winter performance, please do feel free to comment here or contact us. We’re keen to share this information as clearly as possible in order to help homeowners to understand the huge benefits of building a passive house.

EkoBuilt's passive house solar engine
EkoBuilt News & Happenings, Passive House, Solar Power

Your House Needs a Solar Engine, and We’ve Got It

The Eko Solar Engine - passive house infographicsWe now have the opportunity to take houses off the grid and power them with energy completely derived from the sun. Your home can work smarter and save you money all year round.

At EkoBuilt, we’ve invested a lot of time and know-how into developing the perfect solar engine for your home, and we’ve created a special infographic to easily convey how it works.

This simple, fully documented and proven complete building solution is completely unique and makes it extremely easy for anyone to achieve energy independence. Our solar engine uses the latest available technologies to make this not only possible but affordable – NOW!

The beauty of the system is that you can apply it in part or in its entirety, depending on your situation.

Want to learn more about the Eko Solar Engine?

Click here for full details.

Click here to get in touch with us to explore what you need for your home.

 

Mooneys Pad coach house plan
Coach / Tiny Homes, EkoBuilt News & Happenings

Coach House Comes to Ottawa

EkoBuilt is introducing a series of tiny house models that are perfectly suited to the new Ottawa Coach House regulations but which can be applied by anyone, anywhere.

What better opportunity than the upcoming Ottawa Home & Remodelling Show running January 19-22, 2017 at the EY Centre to find out more firsthand.

Ottawa Home and Remodelling Show 2017

Get $4 off the ticket price

Apply Ticket Code EKOBUILT and save $4 off the regular box office adult admissions.

We’ll see you there!

Additional Resources

 

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.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficient appliances for your home

In our last post we looked at the design of the kitchen in the EkoModel Home; this week we’re sharing the decisions we made when choosing appliances.

In recent years awareness has really gained traction when it comes to the energy efficiency of kitchen and other home appliances.

As a result, there were quite a few good contenders when we started our research.

fridge for a passive house

click to enlarge

Passive house has benchmarks designed to keep appliance energy use kept to a reasonable minimum. These benchmarks include:

Refrigerator: 350 kWh per year

Dishwasher: 290 kWh per year

Clothes washer: 160 kWh per year

Range and clothes dryer: no benchmarks are provided for these items since energy consumption depends on how much they are used

We assessed energy performance ratings using ENERGY STAR and EnerGuide. Here’s where we landed:

Range: induction style

Kitchen Aid induction range

click to enlarge

Induction ranges are super efficient as they boil water and heat up much more quickly than conventional models, saving energy across the board. Unlike gas models which rely on a non-renewable source of energy, induction units use electricity.

We went with the KitchenAid® 6.7 cu.Ft. 5 Burner Induction Double Oven Convection Range (Stainless Steel).

Additionally, for the extractor hood, we selected a recirculating style vent that works well with the requirement to minimize air leakage in a passive house. There are a number of recirculating vents on the market and most hood vents can be installed in recirculating mode. We chose the IKEA GODMODIG – it has a charcoal filter which takes care of odours and grease. The grease filter can easily be cleaned in a dishwasher.

Refrigerator: 350 kWh/yr
Refrigerator research was interesting because we found only ‘top-freezer’ models were rated at the 350 kWh/year benchmark. Most other fridge styles, including bottom mount freezer models, consume closer to 550 kWh per year.

We went with the Whirlpool WRT541SZDM, with standard 33″ width.

Dishwasher: less than 290 kWh/yr

We found there were many options for the dishwasher, with most new units performing below the benchmark. Our selected dishwasher is rated at 259 kWh/year.
Bosch 300 Series SHE53T55UC

Additional appliances

While we were deep in appliance research, we also made choices for the laundry room. These two units are stackable or can sit side by side:

Clothes washer: less than 160 kWh/yr

We again found there were many options for the clothes washer, with most new units performing below the benchmark. Our clothes washer is rated at 90 kWh/yr, a true ‘energy star’.
GE GFWN1100HWW

Clothes dryer

In a Passive House the dryer must be a ventless one so that the building’s air tightness isn’t compromised. We found a good model that doesn’t need to vent to the outside.
Bosch 800 Series WTG86402UC

Taking the time to choose super energy efficient appliances is an investment that will pay off in reduced energy bills, something we all like to see.

EkoBuilt News & Happenings

New pricing and approach to EkoBuilt’s passive house kits

We’ve made some fundamental changes to how we price and deliver our Passive House kits, and here’s why:

EkoBuilt’s goal is to provide anyone building a new home the opportunity of achieving an affordable Passive House. We know that this looks different for everyone.

Foxglove cottage kit plan

Foxglove, 1424 sq ft
Total sample build cost: $337,130. See cost analysis >

Our challenge: The Passive House model, although a simple approach to construction, does require specialized carpentry and building techniques. It has three simple but crucial layers to the building which need to be properly sealed. There is a watertight layer, a wind tight layer, and a vapour tight layer which, when installed properly, easily ensure that the house will perform to the passive house standard.

Our solution: We have simplified our passive house materials package to include all items necessary for a watertight, wind tight, and vapour tight passive house. We are excluding previously included items such as exterior siding, soffit/facia, steel roofing, timber frame, insulation because these items are readily available anywhere in Canada. Doing this allows the home builder much greater flexibility and control over the total project budget.

Why it matters: Our revised passive House material package is important to the consumer in three key ways:

1. For the Do-it-Yourselfer
Because all of the materials necessary to build a watertight, wind tight and vapour tight passive house are available in a single package (including design plans), there is no need to undertake the extensive research and sourcing to figure this out. We have done the hard work for you and in a single phone call or a meeting with one of our representatives we will prove to you that our system is the most cost effective and affordable system on the market.

Sometimes the building permit process alone is burdensome enough to prevent an individual from building their own house. In addition to construction drawings most building departments are now asking for duct design, heat loss calculations, an engineer’s stamp, energy efficiency design summary, etc. EkoBuilt is a registered design firm and in addition to construction drawings (which have always been included with our packages), we are now including all of the paperwork required to satisfy any building department’s requirements. We believe the permit process should be simple and free of headaches and we’re doing all we can to aid in this process.

2. For the small builder or contractor
For the builder/contractor who has a client interested in passive house or just generally wants to offer passive house to clients, this approach is superb. Although passive house is known and understood by many Canadians it is still a relatively new style of building in our country. Therefore most consumers and builders have limited knowledge of proper passive house design specifications and materials, particularly windows and doors.

EkoBuilt is not only specialized in passive house design and construction; we are committed to making the affordable passive house a reality. We have placed all of the necessary materials into one simple package and can offer support, if desired. Our simplified package also provides the builder or contractor with the ability to supply and build most of the house on their own, including exterior siding, roofing, fascia/soffit, interior finishes, etc.

3. For the owner-builder who wants to act as their own general contractor
Many of our clients prefer this approach because they like to choose interior finishes and be completely involved in the decision making process, but it would be beyond them to put together a passive house materials and design package. This is our specialty and we are committed to using the best materials that are also affordable, making it unnecessary for owner-builders to get tangled up in research and complex decisions. Just give us a call and we will explain everything:  we want our clients to be completely aware of and confident in the specific materials used and the reasons behind their selection.

How do you want to build your new home?

Over the years, we have encountered every possible variation in home owner involvement in the new house building process. We understand that you need as much information as possible, particularly on every aspect of building a realistic budget for your project. We also understand that everyone comes at the process differently.

For this reason, we can:

  • Just provide you with one of our 13 passive house plans and materials kits.
  • Provide you with one of our kits, along with additional support and/or services.
  • Build your new passive house from start to finish, including to a completely unique design of your own choosing, or by modifying one of our existing designs to better suit your needs (site requirements, lifestyle needs, etc.).

We can supply and install exterior siding, roofing, fascia/soffit, interior finishes, HRV, kitchens, etc. We have simplified the basic Passive House materials package so that anyone can achieve this standard in an affordable way, but we’re still here to provide a total solution from design through to the installation of the last finish in your new home, if that’s what you’d prefer. Call us today to find out more.

Quick links

PassiveHouse Plans & Prices
PassiveHouse Materials
EkoBuilt PassiveHouse Cost Analysis
PassiveHouse Gallery