Passive Design Has Always Been the Cornerstone of Architecture
"A Net Zero Home produces as much energy as it consumes and is up to 80% more energy-efficient than a home built to conventional standards." (Canadian Home Builders Association)
"Achieving net-zero emissions means our economy either emits no greenhouse gas emissions or offsets its emissions, for example, through actions such as tree planting or employing technologies that can capture carbon before it is released into the air. This is essential to keeping the world safe and livable for our kids and grandkids." (Government of Canada)
The future of residential construction is here, it's an exciting time despite the underlying urgency as new innovation leads to new opportunities. The housing industry has had some incredible new technologies emerge year after year and now there is motivation from all government bodies to change the way we build Canadian homes.
In our experience, it has been a challenge trying to determine what the construction industry has been willing to do over the years, but the time is now to make those changes and seek out new ways of doing things. While my husband attended his University years sustainability has always been the goal; it was ingrained in them as Architecture students. Passive design has always been the cornerstone in Architecture and now the performance of our buildings is the goal of Net-Zero; thankfully it doesn't have to stop at your house build. Net Zero can become a lifestyle as you continue to improve your carbon footprint. You can find many traditionally wasteful consumer products that essentially "leave no trace" and are now more available in markets.
Achieving Net-Zero in your new custom build starts with the design and planning phase. Your designer and builder will work with an energy advisor to determine your usage and develop a program of systems that are suitable for your needs. And to lessen the need for unnecessary energy usage we can look at design features like orienting the home according to optimal wind and solar exposure, this is a great jumping-off point.
The Okanagan has a dependable breeze that moves down the valley every night as the temperatures drop which is an excellent time to swing open the windows and cool down after a hot summer day. South-oriented roof systems can be planned to house photo-voltaic solar panels, or an arrangement of deciduous trees to the south can block the high hot sun in the summer but let the low light enter the home (bringing light and heat) during the short winter days when the leaves have fallen. There are many other design solutions that make a big impact on how much energy your home uses and much more technology is on its way. Nothing is more important than the performance of your building envelope materials (think siding, vapour & air barriers, drywall, etc.)
The type of products we use and how they are installed are vitally important in constructing your home. For example, an emerging product called Hempcrete is proving to be a truly remarkable product that we believe is essential to mitigating climate change as it is a product that captures carbon during its entire life.
Hempcrete is a “hemp-lime composite building material” made of only hemp hurd, lime-based binder, and water. That's it. It also replaces all building envelope materials such as insulation, drywall, plywood, vapour barriers, glues, tapes, sealants, and exterior cladding – even paint. All these materials are high carbon producing products that off gas toxic chemicals into your home causing many adverse effects in the people living there. If a tragic house fire happens those products become HIGHLY toxic and once emitted into the air affect everyone in the whole community.
On top of that, Hempcrete is a fireproof, mould resistant, pest resistant, 100% natural, thermal mass that naturally regulates both temperature and humidity, it's acoustically superior, and is one material that solves a world of issues in both ethics and comfort without skimping on style and function and it is budget-friendly.
In conclusion, it is very clear that we can’t avoid the climate crisis and must commit to the work necessary to mitigate our changing environment anymore, so we must make some pretty dramatic changes in the way we live, move, and communicate. It is a very exciting time because of this as “necessity is the mother of invention” and moving forward we see some truly remarkable innovations being implemented throughout the valley, province, country, and beyond. The future starts today!