Home Building Resources, Passive House, Solar Power

Going solar: the EkoModel Home

While solar energy is often associated with passive homes, it isn’t for the reasons that you might think. You can read more about this in our How to Solar Power Your House post from June 2016.

In real terms, a passive house will use under 15 kWh per square metre, per year. The EkoBuilt Model Home will make use of a 6kW solar array to meet its total energy needs for roughly six months/year.

EkoBuilt’s demonstration passive house just west of Ottawa in McNab-Braeside will have a small companion solar installation to cover its total energy needs (this includes energy to power a water heater, the heating/cooling system, and of course general lights/electricity use):Aquion battery to be used by EkoBuilt's demonstration passive house project

For all of the details, you can download these one-page info sheets that we’ve prepared:

Aquion batteries info sheet [pdf]

Hanwha Q cell panels info sheet [pdf]

If you have questions or would simply like to learn more about how a very modest solar installation could help with your home building project, please feel free to get in touch.

Sept 2017 Note: The Aquion salt water batteries used by the EkoModel Home are still an option, but the company recently changed ownership, and we’ve been advised that new units won’t be available until spring 2018.

Healthy Living

Join us at Green Energy Doors Open!

Ready to see the EkoModelHome? EkoBuilt will be taking part in Green Energy Doors Open ’16 this coming weekend. As described on the event’s website:

Green Energy Doors Open, is a province-wide, year-round communications campaign and showcase of individual, community, and commercial sustainable energy projects. It is organized and spearheaded by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association. The initiative aims to showcase advancements in the sector, demonstrating that Ontario is already on the path to building a 100% clean, sustainable energy system.

At the time of the event, the EkoBuilt Model Home will be nearly complete, with all but exterior siding and landscaping, making it a fantastic time to see the house. Other passive house projects in the Ottawa area will also be on the tour, making for a great weekend focused on sustainable home building.

Save the Date

EkoBuilt’s Doors Open Hours & Info
9 – 11 September 2016
9am to 5pm

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

passive-house-roof-soffit

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.

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.

Windows

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.

Doors

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):

Southern elevation of Ottawa passive house by EkoBuilt
Home Building Resources, Passive House facts

PassiveHouse and R2000: A comparison

The R2000 building standard has gained profile in recent years as an energy efficient approach to home building. The formalized program, which has seen thousands of building professionals trained and many R2000 homes constructed, resulted in a great deal of awareness across Canada.

At EkoBuilt, we believe that the PassiveHouse model is the superior choice for the 21st Century Home, and it matters to us that our customers understand how different the R2000 and PassiveHouse concepts are.

We’ve prepared a new page on our website comparing R2000 and PassiveHouse and invite you to read it if you’re considering a home building project or are wondering about the future for building codes and the energy efficiency of different home building methods. What better way to head into the future?

PassiveHouse Compared to R2000, by EkoBuilt

Healthy Living

Save the Date: Green Energy Doors Open 2016

EkoBuilt will be taking part in Green Energy Doors Open ’16 in September of this year. As described on the event’s website:

Green Energy Doors Open, is a province-wide, year-round communications campaign and showcase of individual, community, and commercial sustainable energy projects. It is organized and spearheaded by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association. The initiative aims to showcase advancements in the sector, demonstrating that Ontario is already on the path to building a 100% clean, sustainable energy system.

At the time of the event, the EkoBuilt Model Home should be nearly complete, with all but exterior siding and landscaping, making it a fantastic time to see the house. Other passive house projects in the Ottawa area will also be on the tour, making for a great weekend focused on sustainable home building.

Save the Date

EkoBuilt’s Doors Open Hours
9 – 11 September 2016
9am to 5pm (to be confirmed)

Can’t wait till September?

We welcome anyone truly interested in exploring the PassiveHouse concept and EkoBuilt’s passive house plans and materials kits to arrange a visit to the EkoBuilt Model Home. Located just west of Ottawa, the house is easy to reach. Just give us a shout if you’d like to visit before the September event.

SIGA Majvest building wrap on the EkoModel Home
Passive House

Building wrap for the passive house

As recent pictures of the EkoModel Home show, we’re using SIGA Majvest for building wrap. This wind and waterproof membrane ensures excellent performance for our building envelope, one of the core features of the passive house standard.

For an overview of this product, SIGA provides an excellent video summary.

Two weeks ago we were already well advanced on installing roofing soffit, as seen in the picture below. Watch for more updates on the build as the summer progresses.

Passive house roof soffit

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.

 

Passive House facts

How to solar power your house

House with roof panelsWe are frequently asked about solar panels and the passive house model.

Although solar panels are included in many passive house projects, the fact is that they are not part of the core design elements or criteria for a passive house.

Solar panels are certainly a good companion to a passive house, but not perhaps for the reason you might think.

Passive House vs Off-Grid

Unlike home building that is focused on being ‘off the grid’, passive house design has a different agenda. Passivehouse is concerned with creating extremely low energy buildings which are inexpensive to operate. The central concern of a passive house is really just to dramatically reduce the need for external energy inputs, thereby making it cheap to run. (In real terms, a passive house will use under 15 kWh per square metre, per year.)

Most off-grid homes tend to rely on fuel (oil, gas or propane) to operate a water heater, as well as the heating and cooling system(s). Geothermal is also common, but can be expensive to implement.

The superbly low energy requirements of a passive house design make it a great candidate for an off-grid project, as the need for additional energy input – from solar panels, for example – is so low. This makes the inclusion of a solar photo-voltaic system or array (an installation of solar panels) very cost effective, as it can be considerably smaller to meet the much reduced energy demands of the passive house.

The EkoBuilt Model Home will make use of a 6kW solar array to meet its total energy needs for roughly six months/year. Watch for future posts on our own installation.

Passive House & Solar Energy

Any home designed using the passive house standard begins with the ‘site’; the home will be optimized to face south if at all possible in order to maximize solar exposure.

Preferred siting of a passive house will be due south or within 15 to 20 degrees of south. Having said that, even in a wooded area the most efficient home to build is a passive house.

Building on the principle of southern exposure, in optimal circumstances between 25 to 35% of the home’s southern wall will comprise windows. With modern window technology, passive house is the only proven style of home where windows are actually used as part of the heating system. Solar gain in winter from well positioned windows is essential, and strategic shading helps with cooling in the warm months.

This focus on making the most efficient use of the sun results in a home that is not only extremely inexpensive to run, but also superbly comfortable.

Intrigued to find out more about our own solar project? Follow the blog or give us a call, we’d be glad to tell you more.

Energy & Household Trends

Ontario’s climate change plan: how can you protect the investment in your home?

Ontario passive house construction by EkoBuiltAlthough the details are not yet clear, we are hearing increasingly about how plans to address climate change in Ontario may result in unwelcome increases in both hydro and natural gas.

An article published by the CBC explores the possibility of natural gas being phased out in the near future and rising costs associated with heating and cooling our homes.

There is no better time to address your home’s investment value.

If you’re on the cusp of a big renovation or looking to build a new home, now is the time to learn more about the PassiveHouse model and how you can live comfortably and affordably, free from dependence on fossil fuels. EkoBuilt’s smart passive home building plans and materials kits can get you there even more quickly.

Give us a call to find out more!

Resources

CBC article: Ontario climate change plan could spike hydro, natural gas rates

EkoBuilt: Find out why we’re building a Passive House in Ottawa