Efficiency: right at home in Nova Scotia

Efficiency Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association launch Energy Efficient Demonstration Homes

Efficiency Nova Scotia Demonstration Homes
Original winning design for the Demonstration Home, by Denim Homes Inc.


In the fall of 2010, Efficiency Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association (NSHBA) issued a challenge to Nova Scotian architects and home designers to design an affordable energy efficient home with a minimum EnerGuide rating of 92. Submissions came in from companies throughout the province who wanted the opportunity to be a part of this great new program.

“We were very excited about this new program,” said Paul Pettipas, chief executive officer of the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association. “It was great to see the same excitement expressed from those who made submissions all over the province.”

After the submissions were received, a panel of experienced industry professionals,with experience in the area of energy efficiency and building science, were tasked to review each one and choose a winner. Once the careful review process was complete, the winning submission was awarded to Denim Home Inc. out of the Annapolis Valley region. Denim Home’s entry was unique because it was a versatile home that can be built on a slab on grade or with a full foundation. This impressed the judges and it was decided to build both options for the Efficiency Nova Scotia Demonstration Homes program.

Once the winning design was decided, another challenge was issued to all home builders in the province to submit a contract to build these homes in a way that is affordable to the majority of Nova Scotian homeowners. Again, submissions came in from companies across the province that wanted to build these homes.

Denim Homes Inc. was also successful in this competition by winning the bid to build the Sackville home on a slab on grade. Whitestone Builders submitted the winning bid to build the Dartmouth home with a full foundation. In addition to being recognized for their achievements, both of these companies were given a unique opportunity to showcase their skills and work with the latest technology in energy efficient home construction.

Pettipas points out that the benefits of energy efficient homes, such as the Demonstration Homes, are substantial and include significant cost savings that will be realized from the time it is built through the years.

Dartmouth Home by Whitestone in Willow Ridge

“The most cost-effective time to do energy upgrades is when you build,” adds Pettipas. “You could save anywhere from $70 to $100 a month on your utility. This is the fantastic part about building an energy efficient home. It’s one of those things where if you build it, you’re going to get your money back.”

Despite a damp start to the summer, construction of these two homes began in early June and both teams have worked diligently to have them complete for the October 1st opening. Throughout the construction period, representatives from Efficiency Nova Scotia and the NSHBA were on hand to document each phase of the build and showcase it to the public through a variety of marketing strategies.

All progress has been updated on www.demonstrationhomes.com, as well as Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and through traditional media channels.

“Knowing the impact that energy efficient housing can have for homeowners, we wanted to spread the word as much as we possibly could,” said Pettipas.

During construction, the program generated a lot of attention from local interest groups and politicians. As well, in mid-August, a press conference was held at the Dartmouth Home to officially launch the new website and kick off the program.

Now complete, both of the Efficiency Nova Scotia Demonstration Homes have a lot to offer. The home built by Whitestone Builders, located in Dartmouth, is a single-family detached home located on a corner lot on Viridian Drive in the Willow Ridge subdivision. The larger of the two homes is within walking distance of Mic Mac Mall and only a short drive from Dartmouth

Sackville Demonstration Home in Sunset Ridge by Denim Homes

Crossing. This four-bedroom, three and a half bathroom, dwelling has more than 3,300 square feet of living area and is built on a foundation that is complete with a basement and one-car garage. The extra space allows for an additional bedroom, bathroom and media or multi-purpose room. This home also has other unique features, including a natural gas fireplace in the main living room to keep the owners warm during the cold winter months, plus a walk-in pantry located in the corner of the kitchen that provides additional storage of food and other house wares.

Denim Home’s house, located in Lower Sackville, is a two-level, single-family dwelling located on Hanwell Drive in the newly developed Sunset Ridge subdivision. This elegant new 2,300 square foot home is complete with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and all of the latest energy efficient technology. There is an open concept layout on the main floor, featuring a polished concrete design that is aesthetically pleasing and does not use any type of flooring or carpet. A side entrance has also been included to give the occupant access to the home directly from the driveway into the kitchen area.

“While both homes in the Efficiency Nova Scotia Demonstration Homes program are similar, each home has unique features that differentiate them from each other,” added Pettipas. “The biggest difference is that the Sackville Home is built on an insulated concrete slab on grade and does not feature a garage or basement while the Dartmouth Home does.”

Another similarity between the homes is how successful they have been in terms of their energy efficiency. Both Efficiency Nova Scotia and NSHBA are proud to announce that both homes surpassed the minimum EnerGuide expectancy of 92. In fact, the Denim Home is estimated to achieve an EnerGuide rating of 96 and Whitestone Development’s home, a 94.

Energy efficient homes constantly reduce their owner’s carbon footprint and save them money from the day they are finished. This is not only accomplished by saving money in energy costs through their lifespan, but some homes actually qualify for Performance Plus rebates if they meet the required EnerGuide standard.

EnerGuide is an energy scale used to measure the efficiency of new homes and all R-2000 homes must have a minimum rating of 80. New homeowners qualify for monetary rebates with an EnerGuide rating above 83. The PerformancePlus rebates are as follows:

EnerGuide Rating Rebate

83 and 84 – $3000

85 to 87 – $5000

88 and above – $7000

With many people concerned about reducing their carbon footprint, building an energy efficient home is one of the best ways to do that. A home built to these standards will save upwards of 10 tonnes of greenhouse gas a year.

“You can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and you can save money at the same time. There’s really not a lot of things in this world where you can get both,” says Pettipas. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Drain water heat recovery unit uses warm drain water to help heat the existing water supply.

There are many other features that can increase a home’s energy efficiency that are found in both of the Demonstration Homes. The first of which is an air source heat pump. This versatile and energy efficient system will heat the homes during the
winter months and cool it during the summer months, by drawing the air from inside and then heating or cooling it before recirculating it throughout the home.

Another feature is the drain water heat recovery system, which routes the water from the showers, washer, sinks and dishwasher through a 60-inch copper pipe that is wrapped around the domestic water supply line. The heat from the drain water is conducted through the exterior of the supply line to heat the domestic water supply. By using this system, the home eliminates any added energy costs that would be required to further heat the water.

“As the price of energy continues to rise, making choices such as these that keep your energy costs at a minimum are a great investment,” says Pettipas.

Staggared wall design allows for thicker walls providing room for extra insulation, while windows are low-e argon and triple glazed.

Both of the homes are built with a unique wall design that creates a complete thermal break between the interior and exterior of the home. The wall structure is built with 2”x10” boards on the top and bottom and staggered 2”x4” vertical studs on the inside and outside edges of the wall. As a result, the walls are thicker than those in average homes. By staggering the studs, there is no place for heat to be conducted outside of the home or cold to be conducted inside of the home, creating a wall that completely protects the inside of the home from the elements. The insulation used in the homes also helps retain the desired temperature. This fibrous material, known as cellulose, is made completely out of recycled materials, including recycled newsprint and fire retardant materials. In the Sackville home, a wet-type cellulose was sprayed into all wall cavities. Comparatively, the Dartmouth home chose a dry-type cellulose.

Photovoltaic pannels on the homes generate electricity from the sun, while evactuated hot water tubes assist with heating the domestic water.

Also, a factor in energy efficient are the photovoltaic (PV) panels. Sixteen panels, installed on each of the homes, are primary renewable energy system and they help reduce energy costs. They are installed on the roof to collect solar energy that is
converted into electricity and sent back to the residential power grid. The electricity that is drawn from the residential power grid to operate these homes is subsidized by the energy collected by the PV panels.

Pettipas adds that, one of his favourite features of the home is the solar boiler domestic hot water system. With domestic hot water being the second highest energy cost in the average Canadian home, this system is extremely beneficial as it uses solar energy to heat the potable water used in the homes for showers, sinks, laundry, dishes and other water needs. Solar panels on the roof have exposed water pipes to them which, when the water passes through, the sun’s energy heats the water before it is stored in an insulated storage tank in the homes.

The majority of the windows installed on the Efficiency Nova Scotia Demonstration Homes are double-glazed, low-E argon windows. These windows are installed on the south, east and west sides of the home to maintain an air-tight envelope. Triple-glazed, low-E argon windows are installed on the north side, because this side receives the least amount of exposure to the sun.

Wet or Dry cellulose insulation (wet shown above) provide exceptional energy efficiency - all generated from recycled newspaper.

Keeping track of all this efficiency is the energy monitoring system. Installed in both of the homes, this system allows the future owners to see how efficient their homes are, not only by the size of their monthly energy bill, but also through the digital energy meter that will record how much power is being used and how much is being generated by the homes’ renewable energy systems.

But saving money and energy from these various features is not the only way these homes have benefited the environment or the region. Proud to support local industry, the Demonstration Homes include many products that are manufactured and purchased locally in Nova Scotia. From the roof trusses and the drywall, to the solar panels and the windows, to the insulation and the lumber, these products, along with many others, have been produced, manufactured and/or created in the province.

Discussing this notion, Pettipas commented, “Through using products that have been manufactured and purchased locally, the Demonstration Homes have not only been able to support local businesses, but also reduce the impact of the environment
created by transporting products in from other locations, making the Efficiency Nova Scotia Demonstration Homes even more unique and special.”

Wanting the public to see how special these homes truly are, the homes were opened October 1st for an eight-week viewing period. During this timeframe, industry professionals, construction students, current and potential homeowners and the general public are invited to come view the homes or take a tour.

“The goal is to teach Nova Scotians about the simplicity and affordability of energy efficient home construction” adds Pettipas. “Everyone is welcome to enjoy a tour and see what the energy-efficient homes have to offer.”

Tours begin October 1st and are opened every Saturday and Sunday and on various hours throughout the week. Be sure to visit www.demonstrationhomes.com for an updated schedule.

The Efficiency Nova Scotia Demonstration Homes is a program designed to serve as a benchmark of energy efficiency for all home builders and designers. These homes represent a new era for the residential construction industry that will be cleaner and greener. They will greatly reduce the size of their future owners’ carbon footprint, while saving them money on energy costs each and every month.

“These homes represent the future of home building in this province and we are excited to show Nova Scotians what the future looks like,” concludes Pettipas.

Sherry Donovan

Sherry Donovan

Sherry Donovan is Communications Director for the Nova Scotia Home Builders' Association. She is a regular contributer to various local media and currently has columns appearing in Halifax Metro News and The Chronicle Herald's Homesetc publication.

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