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.

Healthy Living

The EkoModel Home: What it Cost

Munster Joinery windows and doors for the Ottawa passive house

The Trillium model used for the EkoModel Home has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.

We’re nearing the end of construction on the EkoModel Home, our demonstration passive house just west of Ottawa.

Having recently shared our revised approach and pricing for EkoBuilt’s passive house materials kits, we thought it made sense to share the final price tag for the EkoModel Home.

While many homeowners understand that estimating the cost per square foot of a new build is an exercise with a lot of contributing factors (site considerations, build complexity, grade of finishes chosen, etc.), certain numbers provide a common reference point.

A commonly heard figure is $200 per square foot for a custom home, when in reality some homes are done more affordably, while many others cost a good deal more.

The EkoModel Home, with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, rings in at $194 per square foot, based on 2,509 interior square footage, or just $155 per square foot, based on 3,141 exterior square footage. In either case, these figures indicate a smart build that allows for quality construction and material at a more economical price point.

Of course, the story gets even more interesting when you understand how much you stand to save on annual energy costs with one of our passive house models.

We’ve provided a complete breakdown of costs for the EkoModel Home in this new 3-page document. This shows that you can build a PassiveHouse at  the same price point or even below a standard custom build budget.

The Evolution of the Home

We believe strongly that any home built today should be designed for the 21st century – cost effective and sustainable. Our focus is on providing the most comfortable and sustainable home possible, and by ensuring that:

  • the homeowner will be protected from rising energy prices
  • interior materials contribute to healthy indoor air quality and comfort
  • materials used have high renewable and recycled content, minimal manufacturing, and are locally sourced as much as possible
  • construction waste is minimized and an appropriate recycling facilities are identified for responsible waste management


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

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.