Archive for the 'Net Zero' Category

August 6th, 2012
By Vivian Martin

Net Zero is a term that’s been tossed around for a few years. As with all green building concepts in this economy, it is being shelved until the industry picks back up. I think it’s worth studying and implementing once that happens. 


The US Department of Energy defines Net Zero as a house that is 60-70% more energy efficient than a model home, and the remaining 30-40% of energy is created with renewables, such as solar, wind, and geothermal, to bring the energy use to zero.

A net zero home can be on-grid (net metered) or off-grid. Earthships are net zero homes. They create all their own power as well as harvest their own water and deal with their own waste products. This is truly net zero, but probably not suitable for the average homeowner.

For more information about building a net zero home, read the full article here…

August 4th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable.

How much do our buildings really contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? The answers may be surprising.

Over 50% of all GHGs in the U.S. come from our homes and businesses, and over 40% of the country’s energy consumption goes toward powering those structures. Contrast that with the 28% of energy consumption for cars and other transportation, and it’s clear that our homes are expending energy resources at an unacceptable rate.

So what’s greener? Building a new house or renovating an old one? Both are worthy endeavors, but with many existing homes using twice as much energy as they should, home improvement edges out new construction.

However, that’s not the only reason it’s greener to upgrade your existing home. New homes need new infrastructure, including roads, sewage lines, electrical lines and street lighting – all entailing more expenditures of energy. In addition, new homes require the production of new materials, while materials from existing homes are generally recyclable.

What’s greener for your pocketbook? The answer may be both. Homes with a significant number of green features can sell for up to 30% more than traditional homes – either for new or existing homes. In today’s down-turned housing market, green technology gives you a substantial advantage.

For homeowners planning to stay in their homes, the return on investment period is getting shorter, with many recouping costs in as little as three years. In their book, Green$ense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects, architect Eric Freed and Kevin Daum found that 45 out of the 50 retrofitting projects that they examined saved money in energy costs.

To discover which renovations bring the most savings, read the entire article from Calfinder…

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

July 21st, 2011
By Vivian Martin

In our energy efficiency series of articles featured each Thursday, we provide strategies or information on how to make your new home energy efficient and comfortable.

A Passivhaus (or Passive House) takes into account the free heat gained from the sun and “internal heat gains” from people and appliances. It is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load. A Passive House is a comprehensive system. Working with natural resources, free solar energy is captured and applied efficiently, instead of relying predominantly on ‘active’ systems to bring a building to ‘zero’ energy. High performance triple-glazed windows, super-insulation, an airtight building envelope, limitation of thermal bridging and balanced energy recovery ventilation make possible extraordinary reductions in energy use and carbon emission.

The Passive House System was developed in Germany, where it is called “Passivhaus”, in 1996 by physicist Wolfgang Feist. Feist was influenced by the groundbreaking, superinsulated houses that were built in the US and Canada in the 1970′s. His cause was championed by German born Katrin Klingenberg, who founded PHIUS – Passive House Institute United States.

(excerpt from Build Direct – Green Blog…) 


Benefits of passivhaus building

Improved indoor air quality

Increased physical comfort

90% energy reduction

Minimal conventional heating system

Suitable for retrofits


The point of passivhaus construction is to minimize energy loss by restricting airflow into and out of the building. The building stays warm in winter and cool in summer. Style does not matter, as long as the efficiency and air circulation goals are achieved.

The envelope is super-insulated, up to 16″ beneath the slab and in exterior walls (R 60-70). Strawbale, SIPs and ICFs (insulated concrete forms) or Rastra are suitable. Ceiling insulation of dense-pack fiberglass, cellulose or spray foam has an R-value anywhere between R 60-100.
The triple-glazed windows have a very low U-factor of 0.14. Some in Germany are as low as 0.17. The U-factor rating of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC): the lower the number, the more efficient the window, based on the glass, frame and spacer material.
Thermal bridging is essentially eliminated. A blower door test is run several times during construction to test for air leakage before the building is completely closed up and finished.
A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) keeps indoor air fresh, exchanging indoor air with outdoor air with minimal heat loss.

For the full BuildDirect Green Blog article and additional links, click here…

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

May 19th, 2011
By Vivian Martin

Two Builders Discuss the Future of Eco-Friendly Construction

We have, in part, the energy crisis of the 1970s to thank for many of the green building practices currently in our collective toolboxes. Certainly the 1970s can be credited with supplying the motivation to find ways of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Today we’re seeing builders, designers, and manufacturers across Canada take green to a new level. In fact, it could even be said that we’re at the beginning of an eco-friendly construction movement, one that goes beyond energy efficiency within the building envelope to incorporate features such as solar panels, geothermal, water conservation and renewable materials — all while reducing the amount of building materials going into landfill.

There are also a number of green building programs available, among them such industry standards as R-2000, Built Green, LEED for Homes and ENERGY STAR for New Homes. But any ‘green’ builder will tell you it’s not just about the program. Rather, it’s a philosophy that permeates all aspects of their business.

We asked two finalists of the 2010 SAM Green Home Award to share their thoughts on eco-friendly construction. Representing Russell, Ontario, a small community southeast of Ottawa, is second-generation, small volume home builder, John Corvinelli, president and owner of Corvinelli Homes Ltd. Representing Garibaldi Highlands, British Columbia, a community just north of Squamish alongside the Sea to Sky Highway, is Richard Lutz AIOC, president of Alpine Timberframe & Design, a custom home builder and supplier/fabricator of timber structures.

Demographically, the age of a home buyer has not proven to be a deciding factor in buying green; rather, it comes down to the need to facilitate the education, promotion and informational aspects of energy efficient homes to the general public.

“When clients enter the market to purchase a new home, they tend to first look at just the monetary part of the home and use that as a price point comparison,” Corvinelli said. “One challenge is that many Energy Star features are hidden within the envelope of the home, and may not be visible to the naked eye. However, once a client comes into the office, we are able to educate them that while a green home can be slightly more expensive at the outset, the price will be offset by ongoing lower operating costs.”

Another solution is to offer clients energy efficient options. “We provide our clients with simple choices in regards to environmental impact, sustainability, energy efficiency and their relative costs throughout the design and construction of the home,” Lutz said. “They are then able to make educated choices based on their wishes and budget. We do, however, always use products such as low VOC paints and finishes and formaldehyde free products wherever possible. There are so many little things we as builders can do that do not cost any more. Many tout these as green products, but they should actually just be common good practice.”

Continuing education, training and licensing at the builder level and within the trades are equally important. At Alpine Timberframe & Design, for example, employees participate in continuing education through the Built Green program, manufacturers’ workshops, and other initiatives. “When we conduct our own in-house blower door tests, we have our employees and the sub trades all involved by looking for air leakage,” Lutz said. “This turns into a bit of a ‘witch hunt’ and clearly demonstrates the importance of air sealing.”

The Future of Green

So what about the future of green, including legislation? “We simply cannot continue building homes the way we were with regard to energy efficiency and long term durability; the cost of a home to the average Canadian was simply crippling when you factor in heating/cooling costs and the short life expectancy of the building,” Lutz said. “I believe the government has a duty to legislate what many may seem as drastic changes to the building codes. However, with appropriate education it is quite achievable—there are many examples of properly trained, good builders across the country being proactive and taking many of these steps already without any difficulty. Much of this will also force product manufacturers into providing more sustainable and energy efficient products.” 

There’s no argument from Corvinelli, who further suggests that green homes should be a standard across Canada. “I strive to build more feasible sustainable green housing for the average homeowner at a budget-friendly cost, in all the homes I build. My ultimate goal is to construct every home to net-zero energy standards by implementing innovative, no maintenance, renewable energy technologies.”

(Article Source: Home Builder Magazine. Read original article here… )

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient. 

March 31st, 2011
By Vivian Martin

Currently, although Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) does not offer incentives to new home buyers or new home builders, NRCan manages the EnerGuide Rating System, ENERGY STAR® for New Homes, and R-2000 Standard. These programs encourage new home builders and new home buyers to include energy efficiency upgrades in the construction of their new homes.

Natural Resources Canada’s strategy for the new housing sector is to support voluntary labelling programs such as the EnerGuide Rating System (for new homes under construction) and the R-2000 Standard, and to support industry training and inclusion of energy efficiency measures within the building codes.

NRCan-managed new housing initiatives, coupled with regional programs, form the basis for many provincial and utility incentives and grants that are available to encourage energy efficiency in new home construction throughout the country.

For new housing grants, please look for the house icon on the Natural Resources Canada Office of Energy Efficiency Grants and Incentives page.

(Preceding information courtesy of the Natural Resources Canada Office of Energy Efficiency)

Each Thursday, we will feature a blog entry about energy efficient new homes, covering a range of topics from building innovations to ratings systems to “score” your home’s efficiency. Subscribe to the DrummondHousePlans blog to make sure you get the latest news on how to make your new or renovated home energy efficient.

October 8th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Tue Oct 05 14:00:11 2010 EDT

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, Oct 5, 2010 (Marketwire via COMTEX) — A South Ottawa development today received Government of Canada funding to help improve the planning and design of a healthy, energy-efficient and sustainable community. Local Member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre announced $550,000 in funding under the EQuilibrium(TM) Communities Initiative on behalf of the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Natural Resources.

“We look forward to working with Minto to see the Ampersand neighbourhood build upon the EQuilibrium  Communities Initiative,” said Pierre Poilievre, Member of Parliament for Nepean-Carleton. “Ampersand is planned to be a compact, mixed-use community that targets affordability with energy and water efficiency. Canadians, the building industry and the environment will benefit from the lessons learned on this project.”

Located within Ottawa’s Chapman Mills Town Centre, Ampersand is planned to be a neighbourhood that includes homes, commercial space and public parks, all within walking distance of rapid transit. Other proposed features of the project include: affordable purchase prices; reduced storm water run-off through the use of permeable pavements and green roofs; and targeted net-zero energy consumption.

Through the support of the EQuilibrium(TM) Communities Initiative, the Minto Group will explore options for renewable energy, green financing, and water use reduction and on-site treatment for the Ampersand project.

“We look forward to sharing the knowledge gained from this project to advance best practices within the industry,” said Andrew Pride, Vice-President, Minto Green Team.

The EQuilibrium(TM) Communities Initiative is led jointly and equally funded by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Natural Resources Canada’s ecoENERGY Technology Initiative, a component of the Government of Canada’s ecoACTION initiative.

Click here for further information on the EQuilibrium(TM) Communities Initiative.

September 19th, 2010
By Richard Martin - BC Distributor

With the greening of many building codes, “solar readiness”  is creeping into the code. What does this mean and what is involved? In speaking with a number of builders, this is not as complicated as it sounds and is most cost-effectively done when the home is being built. It generally adds about $200 – $500 to the cost of a new build and allows for the future use of solar energy. Solar energy may be used to heat water or produce electricity for your household.

As per Natural Resources Canada: Solar Ready is a cost-effective upgrade you can choose for your new home – an upgrade that could help you make big savings in energy costs. Solar energy systems capture the sun’s clean renewable energy, so your home may provide savings for you and a positive environmental impact in the future.

Solar Ready means preparing a home to make future solar installations easy. When you choose the Solar Ready option, your builder will design cost-effective adjustments for your home so you can install solar equipment in the future.

Solar terminology

A solar domestic hot-water system enables use of solar energy to heat water.
A photovoltaic system converts sunlight into electricity.

What does being Solar Ready involve?

A Solar Ready home must meet five basic requirements for the installation of solar energy systems:

  • a roof location of suitable size, pitch and orientation
  • labelled conduits from the mechanical room to the attic
  • extra plumbing valves and fittings on the water heater
  • an electrical outlet at the planned solar tank location
  • construction plans that indicate the future component locations

For more information on being Solar Ready, we are providing some links which you may find helpful:

August 22nd, 2010
By Vivian Martin

At DrummondHousePlans, we strive to educate ourselves and share information regarding building trends and technology advancements. We encountered this article in Ideal Living Magazine and thought it would be of benefit to our readers…

Energy… that magical thing that illuminates our world. Few of us actually consider what it takes to generate the power to turn on our lights, run our computers and televisions, or cook our food. The daily “news” today touts “clean energy.” An international summit of 192 countries in Copenhagen met in December 2009 to discuss climate change and clean energy alternatives. It all seems a little abstract, and you might wonder how you as an individual can help the global climate and create clean, renewable energy.

Fortunately, some innovative developers and builders are implementing solutions to incorporate into your home. If you haven’t heard of “net-zero” and “zero-energy” homes in your location, you will in the near future. In Aiken, SC, and in Boulder, CO, a developer and architect are proving that you can create affordable, energy-efficient homes. Ron Monahan, developer of The Ridge at Chukker Creek in Aiken and Silver Leaf in Boulder, teamed with renowned Colorado architect George Watt to build net-zero or near-net-zero homes that achieve a 70% to 100% reduction in energy bills. These homes have exceeded the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design developed by the US Green Building Council) Platinum certifications for green building.

One Developer’s Dream
Monahan’s ideas and personal energy are infectious. He believes in creating affordable homes that generate their own power for everyday people. Monahan has been encouraged by the homebuyer’s response to his net-zero approach, with increasing sales at The Ridge during the economic decline.

Watt and Monahan recently partnered with the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken to create a hydrogen-powered home to be completed in 2010. The home will have photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, which will in part power the house and in part pass energy through an electrolyzer that separates hydrogen from water. The hydrogen will be stored in a fuel cell and the by-product is oxygen.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to apply breakthrough technology to residential homebuilding. It would be hard to bring together this caliber of partnership were it not for the pioneering programs that are taking place in Aiken and in South Carolina,” said Monahan.

It wasn’t hard to convince architect Watt to be involved in designing net-zero homes. Watt said, “Ron and I talked for about two minutes about creating a net-zero project in Aiken. Ron said ‘we need to do this in Aiken.’ I said, ‘yeah, we do.’” And the rest is history. Watt, a carpenter before an architect, built his first solar home in the 1980s and realized then that energy efficiency should be implemented into home design; he’s implemented renewable energy systems ever since.

According to Watt, “Energy efficiency should be seamlessly integrated into the design of a building. It shouldn’t be flashy; it should just fade into the background. A home is a home and should feel comfortable and inviting.” Watt’s goal is to incorporate solar or other renewable sources without being an eyesore.

What’s the difference between net-zero and zero-energy homes?
Two types of energy-efficient homes are emerging—net-zero and zero-energy. While both types of homes are extremely efficient, there is a slight difference. Zero-energy homes run off the grid. The homes generate enough energy on their own to power all of the homeowner’s needs through photovoltaic, geothermal and soon even hydrogen power. Net-zero homes still operate on the energy grid, but generate enough energy to offset any annual usage through the same renewable energy means. When you own a net-zero home, you purchase energy from your electric company, but then sell back the energy that your home generates over the year.

“Green” Houses vs. Energy Efficiency
It seems that every successful product available today is marketed as “green.” Houses are no different. Often, the price tag on “green” materials is higher because of this marketing. However, it is possible to have an energy-efficient home that is affordable. Research into energy-efficient construction proves beneficial in creating the most efficient homes for the least amount of money.

It’s important to note the differences between “green-washing” and energy efficiency. You don’t have to have a “green” home to be energy-efficient and help reduce your carbon footprint and energy needs. Zero-energy homes may not be considered green in all areas but tend to have a much lower ecological impact in the long run than a “green” building that requires imported energy and/or fossil fuels.

Building a Net-Zero Home
Energy efficiency starts at the base level in home construction, including site plan, passive solar energy, insulation and energy-efficient appliances. According to Watt, “The key is to create a well-insulated building envelope so your energy needs are as low as possible. After you have saved energy everywhere you can in the house and determined what your energy needs will be, then it’s time to incorporate your renewable energy source.”

Site Plan
It wasn’t that long ago (prior to central heating and air) that homes were designed to capitalize on sunlight for passive heating and large porches to capture breezes to cool the home. This same technology still exists today and is the first step in creating an energy-efficient home. Orient the house with its long axis running east/west and utilize daylight to provide natural lighting.

Windows and Porches
Size south-facing overhangs to shade windows in the summer and allow solar gain in the winter. Utilize large porches to create shade for natural ventilation and reduce the need for mechanical cooling. Consider window-glazing techniques for different sides of the house. Use low U-value/low-E in all climates and low solar heat gain (low SHGC) windows in cooling climates.

Increase foundation, wall and ceiling insulation. A well-insulated home drastically reduces the needs for heating and cooling. Seal all holes and cracks in walls, floor and ceilings to unconditioned spaces.

Appliances & Lighting
Look for EnergyStar® ratings when specifying and purchasing appliances. Consider tankless water heaters, as they are one of the largest electricity consumers in the home. Front-loading washing machines save energy and water consumption. When choosing lighting options, opt for LEDs and florescent fixtures.

Heating and Air
As stated above, use a passive solar energy. You may also want to consider using a geothermal system, which uses ground-source energy to heat and cool your home. The ground temperature around your house is fairly consistent year-round—approx 50°F in the north and warmer in the southern United States.

Add a Renewable Energy Source
Solar energy or photovoltaic energy captures solar energy and stores it in a battery or sends the energy back to the grid. Most people still think of solar as those unsightly large panels raised on the roof of a home. However, that’s not the case anymore. Major innovation has resulted in lighter, more durable panels as thin as 1/8”. Photovoltaic laminates can adhere directly onto roofing materials without damaging the roof. They even come in solar shingles these days.

George Watt designed a solar system to fit seamlessly into the roof in Boulder, CO, so you cannot tell the solar panels from the roof itself. Many states are even offering tax incentives and rebates to those implementing renewable energy sources into their homes.

If it’s not in your budget initially, you can always have it in your long-term plan and implement a renewable source at a later date.

When Will Net-Zero Reach Mainstream Building?
Smaller builders and developers are currently pushing the envelope to create the most innovative energy-efficient designs available. They are smaller and able to take more risks. Watt believes that as soon as the major builders develop these technologies, it will be available in the general market. The sooner the homebuyer demands this level of efficiency, you’ll see it in your area.

Visit Ideal Living Magazine for the complete article as well as related topics…

We are happy to say that we have a great assortment of homes and vacation properties with charming porches and covered decks that work well in the zero energy and net zero goals. We are also happy to work with you and your builder to modify any of our designs to achieve your energy efficiency goals.

August 19th, 2010
By Vivian Martin

Dwell Product article:

The Brooklyn–based start-up SMIT (Sustainably Minded Interactive Technology) was formed in 2005 by the brother and sister team of Samuel and Teresita Cochran. Their goal: to invent a hybrid new approach to solar and wind power. Their Solar Ivy—flexible photovoltaic ‘leaves’ made of sheets of recyclable polyethylene—is a modular, ivy-like system that can be used on the sides of buildings, to capture the sunlight much like plants do. As the ‘ivy’ flutters and shifts in the wind, it converts solar energy into electricity.

What inspired solar ivy, originally?

I grew up in St. Louis with a window that looked out over a wall of ivy. It found its way there because it could get a good footing on the old brick buildings, and it received direct sun. The ivy would move slightly, like prairie grass, showing waves of wind moving across a building. This vision from childhood stayed with me till I was trained as an Industrial Designer at Pratt Institute; then I was able to see the connections and opportunities between that vision of a plant and how we apply photovoltaic panels to our homes. From this, Solar Ivy and GROW products were born.

Read more:

Dwell Product Spotlight by Jaime Gross published on August 18, 2010


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