1981 Passive House Retains Architectural Interest & Performance 

 The modern housing era is rife with uninteresting, often hideous architectural designs.  For you folks already offended, I am not talking about high quality beautiful architecture that we occasionally have the privilege to see, I am talking about ticky tacky ostentatious garage first garbage that dominates the North American suburb. Still, every once in a while, you find a home owner who thoughtfully designs a custom home with an architect, and it exemplifies a certain kind of understated perfection. 

Gloria Marsh and her husband bought a modest cottage on Lake Wilcox in the Oak Ridges Moraine, in Richmond Hill Ontario in 1977. In 1981, they cobbled together the resources to optimize the site with an architecturally designed Passive Solar House. The space reflects a Northern European design sensibility with clean lines, ample storage and sensible flow. It's thoughtfully oriented 6 degrees off perfect south, taking full advantage of the gorgeous view of the lake while at the same time capturing the warmth of the winter sun to offset heating.

While some of the finishes are dated, the space is designed in a way that resonates. Time and time again I have walked people through the house, and consistently they leave inspired and awed.

There are several things at play in the space. First the building has an entirely understated, bordering on austeer, curb appeal with very few window openings on the street side, and landscaped to almost be camouflaged into the surrounding trees. The beautifully appointed gardens welcome visitors, but it's only after you step through the threshold to be greeted by the lake do you get a full sense of the wisdom of the design and space. 

The inverted floor plan invites visitors up a modern steel and wood staircase to an open entertaining level on the Upper Level. The Panoramic windows pull the beauty of the trees  into the living space while the view of the other shore of the lake draws the eye to the horizon. The open kitchen invites guests out to a 4 season solarium and outdoor deck while the spacious pantry is hidden from view behind a partition wall. The entertaining space draws the trees in through the panoramic window, letting the living dining room and kitchen be literally embraced by nature.

 The lower level is a place for rest and reprieve. A family room sits at the centre of two wings of the house, with the master and ensuite bathroom to the west, and the 2nd and 3rd bedroom to the east. Each wing has its own bathroom with toilet separations so that private bathroom use need not spoil the air for teeth brushing. These are sensible ideas that I deeply appreciate and that any family lifestyle will benefit from. 

The family room joins the beautiful garden which is an expansive space bustling with life and beauty. Through the garden the lakefront and canoe launch sits nestled between a pair of gorgeous black willows that offer shade to the home and garden in the summer and in winter let the sun in through to warm the house. 

Not only is this home beautiful but it performs. We had an energy assessment done revealing an EnerGuide score of 76. Compare that to a modern code new build house that I sold last year that also had a 76, and the results are remarkable. Adding to the story is 33 years of energy savings that have rewarded Gloria and her family with a noticeably lower cost of living. Today's Ontario building code is targeting 30% better performance compared to houses built in Ontario prior to 2011, and this house is 33 years old. The total gas, hydro and water costs for this property are just $2500 annually. When you compare that to a typical 2500 sq ft 1981 home, which we estimate to be roughly $3800. Consider those annual savings in a world of de-regulating and increasing energy costs, represents a significant constant savings, not to mention some powerful climate karma.

Learn More about Passive Solar Design by Clicking here. 




Buying a Home with Radiant Heat

When you think of home energy efficiency there are three key influencers that affect performance and comfort: the building envelope, lighting and appliances and heating and cooling.

Click here to read the original article at the Real Estate Magazine 

Most homeowners aren’t interested in how their home is heated; they care first and foremost about their family’s comfort. Despite the advancement of building codes and builder best practices, home comfort is the bottom line that home buyers reference when describing their satisfaction.

Modern radiant heating systems deliver health benefits, as well as efficiency and comfort benefits. Hydronic radiant systems distribute heat by water. This can be done with radiators, as is the case in older homes, or with architecturally integrated modern rads or in-floor heating systems.

Radiant heating systems are more efficient because water is an ideal medium to distribute heat. When I teach, I often offer this comparison: If you bring an oven to 400 C and then turn off the heat, five minutes later you can put your hand in the oven. But take a boiling pot of water, remove it from the element and five minutes later it’s still too hot to touch. Water is a better medium for the retention of heat.

In a cold winter we want to retain as much heat as possible. Our bodies regulate temperature with our feet and heads. When you experience radiant in-floor heating, it is just like wearing a warm pair of slippers. Homeowners who have radiant heating systems tell me that they are more comfortable. They also say that they are able to lower their thermostat because it takes less heat to regulate a room’s temperature. When our feet are warm our bodies are warm.

With an estimated one-third of Canadian children suffering from asthma, it is not surprising that the demand for healthy homes is increasing. In my experience there is also a marketplace emerging of chemically sensitive home buyers. The buyers that I have worked with who seek healthier housing options often define radiant heating as a high priority in their search.

Most indoor air quality issues stem from contaminants such as volatile organic compounds (present in many building materials, paints and solvents) and allergens such as dust, mould and pollen. Conventional forced-air systems can harbour and distribute these contaminants throughout the home.

A few years back I had a client with severe allergies. We would walk into a home and he would immediately get congested. Homes that had radiant heating systems could be cleaned. For him, a home with forced air was just not an option, because it could not be cleaned enough to eliminate the allergens.

When I work with clients I discuss these benefits with them. Often the housing stock in a neighbourhood does not offer radiant heating, but with the stacked benefits of comfort, efficiency and health I believe there is a growing consumer interest in radiant heat. Whether working with a buyer looking for a comfortable, healthy home or with a seller with a radiant heating system, there is a real opportunity for Realtors to help the home-owning marketplace understand that radiant heat delivers benefits that contribute to the quality of life and value of a home.


Selling High Performance Homes: The Realtors Role

February 12, 2013

10-11 PT / 11-12 MT / 12-1 CT / 1-2 ET / 2-3 AT / 2:30-3:30 NT

Panel Moderated by Chris Chopik, Managing Director, Evolution Green

Are realtors helping or hindering the sale of high performance homes? Are they able to recognize and communicate the key features and benefits that distinguish them from other homes on the market? (Such as lower utility bills.) These are only a few of the questions that builders have been pondering as their high performance homes come onto the resale market. Additionally, some builders are challenged with keeping their own realty businesses informed, or in the case of smaller builders, they may utilize realtors as their primary sales staff and have no control over the realtors ongoing educational efforts.

Join us for an engaging and exploratory discussion on the challenges of marketing and selling high performance homes from a builders perspective, and learn what the real estate industry is doing to meet the marketplace consumer demand and product availability. Our panel includes builders as well as professionals from the realty industry. (See profiles below.) We will hear about their experiences with realtors as well as the broader real estate industry, and learn what initiatives they have undertaken to utilize realtors to sell high performance homes. We’ll also hear about specific initiatives that have been implemented to advance the evolving realty industry's capacity to value high performance homes. Participants will have the opportunity to dialogue with the panelists and discuss how we can work with realtors to become a communication channel and ally for high performance home builders.

Key Points Covered:

  • Challenges that builders face when marketing and selling high performance homes.
  • The builders experiences with realtors and the broader real estate industry.
  • Initiatives the builders have undertaken to address the challenges and explore opportunities to utilize realtors to sell their homes.
  • What the real estate industry is doing to meet the marketplace consumer demand and product availability for high performance homes.
  • The specific initiatives the realtor industry has been engaged in to advance the evolving relationship between these key stakeholders.

Webinar Learning Level:

A) Awareness
B) Understanding/Comprehension

C) Application/Implementation

D) Mastery


About the Moderator and Panelists:


Chris Chopik, Evolution Green

Chris Chopik is a recognized leader in the emerging High Performance Real Estate market. He is a trusted writer, speaker and Realtor(r). Chris is the instructor for the recently Canadian-ized NAR Green designation for Realtors(r). Chris has taught building science, climate science and residential renewable energy to the Ontario Real Estate industry since 2008. He has worked with the Ontario Government on building labeling legislation and served on the NRCan ERS Secretariat, delivery subcommittee, on the next generation EnerGuide. Chris is involved in myriad of initiatives relating to high performances houses and neighbourhood design, including currently serving as President of LEAF, he is co-chair of the Conservation task force at OSEA, and is an advocate for complete streets, green infrastructure, and quality of life. Chris' deep passion for the quality of life for present and future generations is always present in his work. Chris' reputation beyond his pioneering work in the green real estate marketplace demonstrates a deep understanding of the confluence of challenges relating to infrastructure, energy , water and ecology that underpin the global economy and the quality of life of people.

Cory Krygier, Jigsaw Homes

Cory is co-founder of Jigsaw Homes Inc., a Calgary based home-builder focused on building single family and small multi-family projects with specific attention to architectural design, exceptional finishing and sustainability. Jigsaw Homes has grown to become one of Calgary’s largest inner city builders over the past 8 years. Cory graduated with a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Calgary in 1999 and upon graduation worked at one of Calgary’s large Architectural firms where he was involved in projects varying in scale from single family homes to large commercial projects. Cory, along with his business partner, has undertaken an aggressive reposition of Jigsaw Homes over the past three years to establish Jigsaw as one of the foremost sustainable builders in Canada. Setting high benchmarks for quality and sustainability Jigsaw has been able to achieve excellent results to date and continues to push the limits of both performance and affordability. Cory also sits as a director of the Net-Zero Energy Homes Coalition and is an active member on the steering committee of a new social innovation initiative in Calgary.

Serge Desjardins, Minto Group Inc.

Serge is Director, Green Initiatives and Condominium Performance with the Minto Group Inc. The company was founded in 1955 and has since established itself as a leader in sustainable developments with projects and holdings in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Florida. Minto's commitment to creating high-performance green homes and buildings began more than 25 years ago - taking energy efficiency and environmental responsibility to the next level with the creation of its EnergyWise program and building to R - 2000 standards. Today Minto offers ENERGY STAR qualified homes, LEED for Homes Communities, LEED Certified Apartment Living, LEED Certified Office Space, a Green Rated Hotel and Florida BuildSmart Homes. Serge has and continues to oversee net-zero projects working with such partners as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Natural Resource Canada. He is a founding member of the Construction Recycling Initiatives Council and is an active member of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association's Building Innovation Committee.

Shilpa Sankaran, Alpha

Shilpa is a social entrepreneur who has provided communications, strategy, and technology advisory services for global brands, start-ups, and Fortune Global 1000 companies. She is an established industry expert in driving adoption of off-site construction and net zero energy building technologies. Prior to founding Alpha, Shilpa co-founded ZETA Communities, a manufacturer of net zero energy and sustainable modular buildings. She serves leadership positions with key organizations to drive adoption of energy efficiency in the building industry. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) appointed Shilpa to the Zero Net Energy Action Plan Champions initiative, leading the "Path to Zero" campaign to drive the awareness and education of the State of California's plan to meet its 2020 and 2030 net zero energy mandates. She is also a Modular Building Institute (MBI) committee member, promoting the modular industry nationally through strategic communications initiatives. Prior to ZETA, Shilpa advised leadership as a management consultant to General Motors, Wells Fargo Bank, AAA, Nike, Verizon Wireless, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, among others.

Ben Kaufman, GreenWorks Realty

Ben is the founder and owner of GreenWorks Realty, the first green brokerage in the United States. With over $100 million in completed transactions, Ben's passion guides GreenWorks Realty's mission to strengthen the livability and sustainability of our communities. GreenWorks Realty recently merged with the second largest and fastest growing realty brokerage in the country, Keller Williams.  The primary impetus of this merger is for GreenWorks to affect a cultural shift within the company, positioning agents to better address the market realities apparent today through training and coaching. Ben's background includes residential and commercial real estate sales founded in a deep knowledge of green homes and land, small business ownership, and low impact land development. With an undergraduate degree in Urban Planning, a Commercial Real Estate Professional Certificate from the University of Washington, and a Permaculture Design Certificate from Crystal Waters, Australia, Ben has succeeded with making the addition of environmental certification check boxes to the Multiple Listing Service and subsequently produced the first national study on green home sale values. Ben also develops and teaches green training and coaching courses for real estate agents.

John Beldock, EcoBroker International

Dr. Beldock is the founder and CEO of EcoBroker International.  He is also the current Executive Director of the Association of Energy and Environmental Real Estate Professionals.  Dr. Beldock and his team have developed the EcoBroker brand and business development operations since EcoBroker’s inception in 2001.  Dr. Beldock is a licensed real estate professional, a green building scientist, an author, and an educator.  Dr. Beldock is the former Director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Environmental Analysis Program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  He was the co-founder of the U.S. Department of Energy’s NICE3 Program.  He was the 1991 recipient of the U.S. EPA's Outstanding Performance Award for Research in Pollution Prevention.  Dr. Beldock earned his Master of Science and Doctorate from the University of California and its Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1985 and 1987, respectively.  Dr. Beldock and EcoBroker’s VP of Business Development recently published the Green MLS White Paper: Unlocking the True Value of Green Homes, under the auspices of the National Home Performance Council. Dr. Beldock and his family live in Evergreen, CO.

Lisa Roberts, Calgary Real Estate Board

Lisa Roberts is the Manager of Member Programs with CREB®.  One of her responsibilities is leading a group of local REALTORS® who champion the CREB® HomeSmarts program.  CREB®s commitment to bring the “green” conversation to resale real estate transactions began in 2009 with a challenge for REALTORS® to include a home’s EnerGuide rating in their listings.  In 2011, with the assistance of REALTORS®, the program transformed to HomeSmarts.  HomeSmarts continues to enable inclusion of the EnerGuide rating and has expanded the conversation to include multiple smart options such as water (low flow plumbing), energy (lights, furnace, thermostat) and appliances (energy star).  REALTORS® have actively embraced using these additional listing feature options.  Looking forward, CREB® plans to drive greater adoption by increasing the profile of both the HomeSmarts program and green education designations. CREB® is also committed to ongoing research and assessment of potential additions to the program.


Home Energy Labelling Developing Prominence in Real Estate

From the LiveSmart BC - Blog

Also read the CRD's Media Release 

August 8, 2011

Free Home Energy Assessments in the CRD when “EnerGuide for Houses” efficiency label posted on MLS®

EnerGuide for Houses

Labelling, labelling, labelling!

Everyone is talking about it: whether it’s organic food, energy star appliances, fuel efficient cars… but what about our homes?  Over 76 per cent of our home energy use goes to heating and hot water – making the energy efficiency of our home a big factor in both greenhouse gas emissions and monthly utility bills.

In response to consumer demand for knowing the energy efficiency of a home before buying – and supporting the Province’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets – the Ministry of Energy and Mines, BC Hydro, the Victoria Real Estate Board, Capital Regional District and participating municipalities are launching a pilot project to make it easy for both sellers and buyers to share this information through a voluntary labelling system called EnerGuide for Houses.

For a limited time, residents of the Capital Regional District that are selling their homes are eligible for a $150 rebate towards an energy assessment that will provide them with an EnerGuide for Houses rating to include in their listing on the Multi-Listing Service (MLS®) website. An EnerGuide rating is a measure of a home's overall energy performance and is comparative to other homes that are similar in age and location providing an accurate picture of the energy efficiency of the home.

But, what are the benefits of labelling your home?  Plenty...

  • If your home has a high rating, congratulations!  You get bragging rights and it can add value: increasing the marketability of your home.
  • If your home has a low rating, no problem.  Your energy assessment report clearly shows the most cost effective and beneficial upgrade options for the home as well as the cash incentives from both Federal and Provincial rebates that you can access to make upgrades.
  • If you choose not to make upgrades before selling, no problem again... You can transfer the assessment report and cash incentives to your buyer!  Your potential buyers will appreciate this transparency and access to the incentives for making upgrades.

There are also social, economic and environmental benefits of home energy labeling such as:

  • reduced carbon emissions
  • improvement of indoor air quality
  • helping to create a ‘conservation culture’
  • reduced need for energy supply infrastructure
  • increased household spending power by reducing energy bills
  • stimulated local employment in home energy retrofit sector
  • establishes energy efficiency in the mainstream real estate market

Although labelling is voluntary in Canada, one million homes in Canada already have an EnerGuide label.  There are jurisdictions with mandatory labelling in Europe, Australia and the USA.

This pilot will inform provincial policy on home energy labelling at the time of sale, going forward.

Tell us what you think about home energy labelling by:


Retrofitting and Rebuilding means Rethinking H2O

I have had the pleasure of knowing Carolyn Moss for 6 years. She is an accomplished architect who has made a name for herself and her firm in residential retrofit (as well as Commercial and Health Care). MossSund Architects work speaks for itself.  I have been particularly impressed with their rain barrel of all things. The design of the CISTA Vertical Rain Graden - rain harvesting system speaks to the thoughtful competence and attention to detail of MossSund.

Check it out and consider adding one to your next retrofit renovation.

Learn More About CISTA