With a 2030 goal for provinces and territories to adopt a national building code that makes Canada “net zero energy ready” and a 2050 deadline to bring the country’s carbon emissions down to net zero, the building industry has been busy implementing guidelines to move the process along.
In Canada, buildings are responsible for 17 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions — 30 per cent when you factor in the carbon from the build process and materials. The road to net zero may be long but the new home industry has already taken big steps, starting with the creation of net zero homes.
Net zero means that on an annual basis, the home produces as much energy as it consumes. It’s a trend driven not just by the 2050 deadline but by new home buyers looking to reduce energy costs and do their part to address climate change.
The Elements Of A Net Zero Home
Net zero is more than just building “green.” It incorporates green features like upgraded insulation, triple-pane windows, energy efficient furnaces and hot water tanks and energy-rated appliances but takes the entire home into account.
Net zero homes have south-facing solar panels, heat exchange systems, south-facing windows to capture passive solar heat and technology that automatically turns off lights and appliances when not in use. They are airtight, super insulated and sealed.
In order to achieve net zero status, homes must be verified through energy modelling. To be labelled net zero under the Canadian Home Building Association’s (CHBA) Net Zero Labelling Program, homes must be 100 per cent more efficient than what the building code stipulates.
Buyers Demand Energy Efficiency
Four of the top 10 buyer must-haves were energy efficient features. At the very top of the list were appliances, ranking higher than highly coveted walk-in closets. Other desirable attributes were energy efficient windows and overall efficiency.
Air exchange systems ranked higher than two-car garages. Home buyers are looking for heat and energy recovery systems that enhance indoor air quality while minimizing heating costs.
The Net Zero Lifestyle
Simon Gosgnach is the owner of Edmonton’s first net zero home which was built in 2012. He has no gas bill, and his home produces most of its own electricity.
“When you look at our utility savings each month, it is amazing how that reduces the cost of home ownership. Looking back, it is obvious that it was a solid investment that directly contributes to a better environment,” he says.
A net zero home is a healthier home with more even heat distribution. Less air leakage means less dust. There’s higher indoor air quality which is important.