New House - Old House - Canadian homes are going Green

Ottawa, Canada (GLOBE-Net) -Just outside of Ottawa, real estate developer The Minto Group has opened one of the greenest houses ever built in Canada.  At the same time, a collaboration of designers, architects, engineers, homeowners and sustainable building experts in Toronto is turning wartime houses in Canada into green homes. Both projects, spearheaded by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), offer up blueprints on how to retrofit old homes or build new homes to new environmental standards.

The Minto ecohome, called ‘Inspiration’, is situated in the South Ottawa community of Manotick. It demonstrates the future of home building and will help motivate and educate consumers toward greener home choices. The project’s goal is not only to influence home building in Ottawa, but all across the country.

The ecohome brings together a vision of net-zero energy design with healthy living features that can be afforded by any home buyer. Net-zero means that at the end of the year the home will have produced as much energy as it consumes.

The initiative is part of CMHC’s EQuilibrium Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative. Minto was the only Ontario production builder selected to push the limits of green home building. Twelve projects in all were asked to be part of the program nationwide.

"We wanted to give something back to the community by having this home uniquely showcase sustainable building, in a way that inspires consumers to become part of the solution," said Robert Greenberg, Executive Vice President of the Minto Group’s home building division.

With an open and informative style, Inspiration has interactive displays and signage to explain the features and benefits of green building. Starting in June 2008, the home will be on display to the public to experience for at least a year. For those who cannot visit the home in person, Minto has set up a website as an interactive green experience.

Global warming and climate change have been strong influences on the green building community. Inspiration strives to limit greenhouse gas emissions. It is designed to generate enough green power on its roof to completely offset the small amount of gas and electricity still used by the home. Thanks to the Ontario Power Authority’s Standard Offer Program, Inspiration’s homeowners could actually receive payments from their local electricity supplier for the electricity generated by their home.

"We started this project to see what was possible, so we gathered all the experts to build a demonstration home. In the end, we were so inspired by the results that we decided to offer versions of Inspiration in our communities, starting later this year," added Greenberg.

Inspiration is designed to reduce the cost of home ownership, conserve natural resources, improve the indoor air quality for better occupant health, and was constructed mostly with recycled and renewable materials.

Some of Inspiration’s green features include, but are not limited to:

  • Rainwater harvesting for irrigation and toilets

  • Solar thermal air and hot water collectors

  • Photovoltaic solar electricity panels

  • Natural ventilation design to eliminate the need for air conditioning

  • Built-in recycling centre

  • Compact fluorescent lights throughout

  • A convenient All-Off switch connected to green plugs to make conserving energy easy

"In every practical way, we designed this home with conservation, health, and consumer empowerment in mind," explains Andrew Pride, Vice President of Minto’s dedicated Green division. "Inspiration has a significantly lower environmental footprint. It uses rain water to flush toilets and water the lawn. It is designed with plenty of windows for natural ventilation to eliminate air conditioning. And, it is architecturally optimized to enjoy the benefit of the sun’s heat and light."

Minto has become a leader in LEED® - Canada certified green living options with other successful developments, and the company is committed to producing new communities that promote health, material conservation, energy efficiency, and a high quality of life.

Making Old Homes Green

While Minto is teaching Canada how to make new housing developments green, The Now HouseTM project is making old homes green. 

The first Now House is located in Topham Park, Toronto. The home is a 1200 square foot, 1 1/2 storey, and detached structure in a community of 200 similar homes. It was built in 1946 from plans provided by the post-war predecessor to CMHC.  The project, will turn the 60-year-old WWII house into a near zero energy home-one that produces almost as much energy as it uses.

The Now HouseTM project is a collaboration of designers, architects, engineers, homeowners and sustainable building experts led by Lorraine Gauthier of the design consultancy Work Worth Doing.

Between 1941 and 1947, the Wartime Housing Corporation (later CMHC) built houses to provide affordable housing for munitions workers, returning veterans and their families.  These houses were based on a standardized, inexpensive, sometimes pre-fabricated 1 1/2 storey designs that served as models for future housing initiatives across Canada after the war.

Although they were conceived during a time of wartime conservation and intended as temporary suburbs, wartime neighbourhoods developed distinct social and cultural networks. While many of these neighbourhoods dissolved after the war, some continue to thrive and currently remain a fixture in Canada’s urban areas.

Now House plans to apply their retrofit formula to one house, then a community of houses then a million wartime homes across Canada.

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