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 http://www.remonline.com/buying-home-radiant-heat/ 

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.

Home Energy Labelling Developing Prominence in Real Estate

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.

Future Friendly Houses Are Worth More, Today and Tomorrow

Bottom Line , Future Friendly houses are worth more than energy hogs. If you are renovating make sure you take advantage of retrofit opportunities. Take pictures so you can show your potential purchasers the insulation in the walls, windows and doors. Ensure your Realtor understands the value of these improvements and can convey this value to a potential buyer.