I am looking to build a new house and most of the advice is for older homes. what is the best way to reduce carbon? in new construction and has the lowest environmental impact? what would be the next alternatives in order?
Thank you for your email asking for opportunities for reducing your carbon footprint and impact on the environment when building a new home. I applaud your efforts.
There are a number of options which would be influenced by your timetable as well as your desire to invest time and effort into finding a knowledgably architect and contractor to build your home. There are several approaches you could take:
(a) Building an energy efficient home: for approximately $3500 in incremental cost an average home can be made 30% more efficient (providing 30% lower annual energy bills) which is very cost effective. It is essentially building the home to reach EnerGuide 80 (EGNH 80). The incremental cost would mostly come from building design, ENERGY STAR windows and appliances, better insulation, air tightness, and a high efficiency heating system. EGNH80 has similar performance to an R2000 home. More information can be found on Canadian Homebuilders website under "Built Green BC" : http://www.chbabc.org/content.php?id=504 and the PowerSmart New Home program http://www.bchydro.com/powersmart/newhomes/newhomes8635.html
(b) Building a high-performance home--would exceed EGNH80 and seek to minimize heat loss in the home. If you are really ambitious, you could seek a design that is similar to the "Passive House" that does not use a central system and uses very little energy. 4000 of these homes have been built in Germany with good success but there is not a lot of experience in BC. It would require some effort on your part, as it may be difficult finding a builder with the appropriate skills.
(c) The other approach is to include renewable energy systems in the design. (BC Hydro allows the selling of additional power back to the grid to improve the economics.) This could include wind or solar systems to supplement the home heating system.
Another resources are:
- the BC Sustainable Energy Association (www.bcsea.org) who have information on their website regarding wind and solar
- the Vancouver Renewable Energy Coop (Rob Baxter) who can provide information on the cost of wind and solar systems
- CMHC who are sponsoring a number of zero-energy homes across Canada (I am not sure if they have filled their quota)
If you willing to pursue option b or c then you could also seek provincial and federal support as a demonstration home. You might seek help from the CMHC to help you do this.
If you would like to discuss these options, feel free to contact me. And thanks for doing your part.
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