Calgary builders go green!
March 07, 2022
Owning a home comes with big responsibilities – one of the biggest being monthly utility bills. With this winter’s bitter cold snap, your upcoming bill might come with a bit of sticker shock. Outright electrocution in some cases.
Even more worrisome is that electricity prices have been going up for some time. According to energy comparison website energyrates.ca, Alberta’s energy prices have increased by 34 per cent between November 2020 and 2021.
Homebuilders have noticed and are taking initiatives to help consumers in the fight against rising energy bills while saving the environment as well. Many have taken up the Built Green program, and some are taking the next level to Net Zero homes.
Built Green Canada is an industry-driven, national, non-profit organization committed to working with builders interested in responsible sustainability practices in the residential building sector. It uses a certification program that promotes healthy building measures, such as no or low volatile organic compounds, heat recovery ventilators for fresh air and high efficiency features. It also serves to underline the economic and health benefits of building “green.”
This year, Built Green Canada launched its Net Zero Energy+ program for single family new homes, which it calls “a new level of achievement within the organization’s long-held, industry friendly green building program.” They’ve created a labelling program which provides the industry and consumers with clear and precise technical requirements for two levels of labelling: Net Zero and Net Zero Ready Homes.
The initiative will help in achieving the Government of Canada’s 2030 target to have all provinces and territories adopt a net zero energy ready building code.
Today, there are Canadian builders reaching this target, while many more have a ways to go. In Calgary, Avalon Master Builder and Excel Homes are among those who have embraced the program to give their homeowners an edge in the energy wars.
Building Net Zero multi-family homes
Chris Williams, Vice-President at Avalon Master Builder, says building green homes has been part of their culture for the last two decades. The developer – best known for their line of ZEN townhomes – takes their biggest leap in environmentally sustainable homebuilding yet when they unveil their first mid-density Net Zero townhomes
In partnership with the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and Natural Resources Canada, Avalon has built one of the first Multi-Unit Residential Buildings (MURBs) qualified under the CHBA Net Zero Home Labelling Program, at ZEN Sequel, in Seton.
“As part of this pilot project, we are one of only six builders across Canada that have come together to raise awareness of affordable Net Zero and apply proven technologies, design and practices to mid-density Net Zero Energy buildings,” he says.
Williams says the project helps advance technology that will help the home building industry to reduce costs, increase energy-efficiency, performance, and productivity. “The result is an energy-efficient, airtight home with an exceptional living experience for our homeowners. They will save on their utility bills, be protected from energy price increases, and live in a healthier, quieter, more durable and comfortable home.”
Avalon has been preparing for this moment for the last 20 years. “In 2002, when we set off to work towards Building all homes to Net Zero, we really had no idea what we were in for,” Williams tells Calgary New Home + Condo Guide.
“Fast forward 20 years, we have built multiple Net Zero demonstration homes, Avalon leadership has attended, lead, and founded multiple industry Net Zero groups, and we have acted as subject matter experts municipally, provincially, federally, and globally. It is not that Net Zero is important to Avalon, it is our passion.”
Equipping Net Zero homes
Avalon’s homes can come with such Net Zero features like a fresh air system (HRV), double-coated triple-pane windows, solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, and LED lighting, not to mention an airtight exterior envelope that locks in the temperature. Cooler in summer, warmer in the winter and unbelievably quiet all the time with the tamping down of outside noise.
The result is an energy-efficient home and exceptional living experience, he adds. “ZEN Net Zero homeowners will save on their utility bills, be protected from energy price increases, and live in a healthier, safer, more durable and comfortable home.”
Williams says ZEN Net Zero townhomes are third-party EnerGuide™ rated for tighter, draft-free living, better interior air quality and substantial cost reductions.
One of the biggest challenges is surmounting the perception that building energy-efficient homes is more expensive. Although building better-insulated, air-tight homes does come with higher upfront costs, the savings one can get in utility costs down the road will balance
“The upfront cost is three percent more for our Net Zero Ready flats, and 8 percent higher for our three storey Net Zero townhomes. The financing of the increase (on your mortgage) is covered by the utility savings. Further to this, you get 25 percent of your CMHC premium back after you move in, and electrical rate shifting allows you to cover even more in the summer when you are over producing power with your solar panels. All in all, you can make money by building a Net Zero home.”
Excel’s green homes
Excel Homes has also made environmental sustainability a key feature in their homes, and they are part of the Built Green initiative.
The Marketing Manager at Excel Homes, Kristina Plank, says that since 1988, more than 12,000 Alberta families have trusted Excel to construct their home, and since 2007, they have delivered more than 3,000+ homes registered as energy-efficient BUILT GREEN® homes.
“One of our company’s key values is Responsibility. We consider the impact of our actions and choices, today and tomorrow, and lead the industry in many areas including safety and sustainability,” Plank says. “We’ve partnered with Built Green to certify the construction of energy-efficient and environmentally responsible homes. Together with Built Green, the result is a healthy, smart home designed for a happy family.”
Excel Homes offers a wide selection of proven floor plans equipped with energy-efficient features, from appliances to insulation. Many of the company’s show homes in the 11 communities they build in are already Built Green Canada certified, and it is clear for visitors to see just how much value it brings to their homes.
Plank says, in fact, all their-single-family homes are Built Green certified. “The cost of using Built Green materials is actually not that much higher – it’s minimal. Besides, the long-term benefits of lower utility bills, helps balance out the incremental increase.” Along with Williams, she believes that the CHBA rebates for building Built Green homes
help a long way in getting more homebuyers to partake in the program.
About Pepper Rodriguez
Pepper Rodriguez is a writer, editor of New Home + Condo Guide's Calgary and Edmonton editions.