Building an Affordable, Sustainable Home

A team of builders constructed Canada’s greenest home while keeping it uncomplicated and cost-effective.

| October/November 2016

Several years ago, an empty urban lot in the city of Peterborough, Ontario, sparked an interesting and exciting debate among our faculty at The Endeavour Centre, a nonprofit sustainable-building school based in the city: What would it take to build the “greenest” home in Canada? And could such a home blend into an existing neighborhood and meet conventional cost and building code expectations?

In 2012, we set out to answer those questions, as the design and construction of such a house became the focus of our six-month Sustainable New Construction program. A group of eight students joined our faculty and guest instructors to attempt to meet the highest standards we could imagine for a residential construction project.

Sustainable Home Building Goals

From the outset, we knew that meeting our goals would involve a lot of research, as we weren’t prepared to make assumptions about the sustainability of any element of the project. We created an ambitious list of attributes we felt we’d have to prioritize in selecting all the materials and systems for the home:

Environmental impacts. We would strive to ensure that all of our choices would have the lowest possible impact on ecosystems.

Embodied energy and carbon. We would always choose the lowest-embodied-energy options and aim for a carbon-neutral building.

Energy efficiency. Our building would far exceed the code requirements for energy efficiency, and we would aim to be a net-zero-energy home.

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