What Does ‘Building Green’ Mean?

EACH HOUSE IS A SYSTEM…

…  and building and operating that “system” impacts our environment.  Building Green is a process that tries to impact our environment as little as possible. The benefit as owners of green high performance homes will be lower operating costs and improved personal comfort and health.

In determining the energy efficiency of a building, a “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t work.  Different occupants, sites and budgets demand different solutions.  In our eyes, there are really three different “levels” of sustainable building.

PRETTY GOOD HOUSE.

Coined at a series of meetings by a building science group in the US, a “Pretty Good House” is a playful take on scaling back the intense requirements of the ultra-energy-efficient Passive House standard, but still applying many of the same principles to create a home that has improved comfort and energy efficiency. The approach is defined by its simplicity, including straight forward construction practices and improved building envelope goals. These principles help provide owners with homes that have improved insulation levels, higher quality glazing and improved air-tightness to reduce heat loss. This results in happy owners that are more comfortable, have lower utility bills and an efficient home built within their budget.

PASSIVE HOUSE

“Passiv Haus” is a German building energy efficiency program which is designed to facilitate the design, predicted energy consumption, and construction of buildings that have a drastically reduced carbon footprint. They are most commonly associated with single family residences, although schools, apartment buildings, and office towers are now commonly built this way too. A Passive House is one which adheres to three very strict energy conservation requirements:
1. A maximum amount of heating energy per square metre of floor space per year which is equivalent to about 85-90% less heat than a new code-built home,
2. A stringent air-tightness rating for the home based on a test performed by a third-party energy analyst, and
3. A maximum total energy consumption per square metre of floor space per year, which includes all energy usage in the building, including space heating and cooling, domestic hot water supply, ventilation equipment, lighting, appliances and electrical loads.

NET ZERO HOUSE

A net zero house is a home that is designed to produce all of the energy it uses. This means that special equipment on site, such as solar panels or small-scale wind turbines, will actively generate enough electricity on site to power the house. This will cover the energy used for heating the home, hot water, lighting, and operating all of the appliances. A Net Zero home will produce an excess of energy at certain times of the year, and “sell” that energy back to BC Hydro. Then when the home needs to draw energy from the grid, it can do so by “drawing back” energy it has already provided to the utility company. The result is “Net Zero” energy consumption for the year. In this way, Net Zero houses offer the ultimate in sustainable building goals; in the long term, they have zero carbon footprint in an operational sense. Coupled with other features, such as greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting, the overall environmental impact of one’s home life could be reduced almost to zero.