Imagine living in a home that is completely sustainable. Unlike most other buildings in the country, it doesn’t contribute to the degradation of the ozone layer.
We’re not talking about a 1970s-era dome structure or a remote hay bale house running off the grid. Nor are we relying upon exclusive living loaded with high-end gadgets. It could be any old house – at least from the outside.
It stays cooler in the summer so you rarely need to turn on the air conditioner. A moderate level of heat is naturally maintained during the winter, so your furnace doesn’t need to work so hard.
A bank of quality and well-installed windows in the south-facing house allows in natural heat from the sun when you want it and repels it when you don’t. The sun is also serves to heat the water you use every day. It might even recycle the washing water to be used a second time for the toilets.
Mass production of these kinds of homes might be futuristic, but plenty examples of the sustainable home exist. In fact, Canada is considered a pioneer, having developed and constructed environment-friendly homes dating back to the 1950s and 60s.
In 1977 the Saskatchewan Conservation House was constructed as a nearly airtight structure with thick R-40 insulation in the walls and R-60 in the roof. It contained no furnace but was heated by a hot water system. Cedar siding absorbed heat from the sun and shade from deciduous trees on the south side helped cool the house in the summer. While it became quite an attraction at the time, it has since been largely forgotten by the mainstream. Energy is considered cheap in Canada, so energy-efficient initiatives, particularly those that pushed the envelope, weren’t considered important or urgent and are still looked upon as special projects. Our extreme weather was the major motivation in the early projects.
The situation is more pressing in Europe, where energy is expensive. That home in Regina later became a model for other sustainable developments, including Passivehaus – an energy-efficient standard launched in Germany that has been used in more than 25,000 projects worldwide. A Passivehaus can derive 40 per cent of its heat from sun shining through the windows (http://www.passiv.de or http://www.earthadvantage.org). Canada’s first Passivhaus is Austria House, built in Whistler for the 2010 Olympics. It is now a cross-country ski centre called Lost Lake Passivhaus.
But for those looking at the bigger picture, the motivation for sustainable homes comes from the numbers. Buildings suck energy. They account for anywhere from 35 to 50 per cent of all the carbon dioxide emissions in most developed countries. And climate control is a big part of that, consuming more than half of that power burned.
There are many other examples of sustainable buildings, including some close to home. The Archetype Sustainable House (http://www.sustainablehouse.ca/) at The Living City Campus at Kortright, a design supported in part by PowerStream, promotes sustainable building practices through two semi-detached model homes.
The move to save on energy doesn’t have to be dramatic. The EnergyGuide standards we’ve seen attached to appliances now applies to new homes. The ENERGY STAR, LEED and R-2000 programs also set efficiency standards for home construction ( https://www.saveonenergy.ca).
While it makes sense to begin developing efficiencies in new homes before construction begins, existing, or old homes, can also undergo retrofitting, or even get a bit of a boost. And it’s not just homes where efficiencies can be found. Commercial buildings are often typical energy hogs and can be built to use much less energy.
|Categories: Conservation Solar|
|Tags: Conserve, Cost of Electricity, Energy Savings, Sustainable House||
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