Canadian athletes aren’t the only ones earning medals during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
There are three ultra energy-efficient homes for locals and tourists alike to tour during the Games, Whistler’s first rammed-earth home and BC’s first net-zero energy home, made by a local builder and one, a certified ‘Passive House’ from Austria.
Austria House , as it’s called, is an ultralow-energy building designed to hear, cool and ventilate itself with small amounts of energy. Using a combination of super insulation, thick walls, triple-paned glazing, solar orientation and an advanced heat-recovery system, Austria House anticipates using one-tenth of the energy required by a building that is conventionally built and approximately the same size. This translates to less than half the energy consumption expected from a LEED-Platinum home -- one of Canada's highest standards for "green" buildings.
Austria House will be given to the Whistler community to use after the Games, envisioned as a rental shop for cross-country ski gear in the winter and bikes in the summer as well as a indoor public space and club space for the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association and the Whistler Nordics ski club.
Rammed earth, on the other hand, is a building system with one of the lowest environmental impacts commercially available today. Eighteen-inch-thick exterior walls are formed like conventional concrete, but use locally sourced sand and gravel, including a small percentage of Portland cement and naturally sourced colouring agents.
With a mixture of ancient knowledge and the latest in construction technology -- including double and triple glazing, non-VOC finishes and a hospital-quality air filtration system -- Whistler's first rammed-earth home is positioned as not only one of the healthiest in Canada, but as one of the most efficient. The home, built by RDC Fine Homes, uses 80 per cent less energy than any conventionally built home.
The home is also one of the first in Canada to include an extensive system for monitoring energy efficiency and indoor air quality and it’s currently available to tour in Whistler Cay Estates, just a short walk from Whistler Village.
Aside from the solar panels on its roof, B.C.'s first net-zero energy home looks fairly similar to all the other houses going up in the neighbourhood. When it comes to performance, however, it’s miles ahead of the competition.With a combination of energy-efficient design with high-tech construction and commercially available renewable energy systems, net-zero homes are considered as such thanks to their ability to achieve net-zero energy consumption (energy neutral) on an annual basis. Over the period of one year, the amount of energy the buildings use is equal to what they generate.
Every aspect of the building, another RDC Fine Homes' project, was designed to reduce energy use. Natural light reduces the need for artificial light during the day while overhangs shade the windows; when the sun is high in the summer months, eliminating the need for cooling systems. All windows are triple-paned, low-E gas filled, and both the foundation and walls use systems designed to create highly insulated interior spaces with minimal amounts of construction waste.
In addition to having a heat recovery system similar to that used in the rammed-earth house, an array of solar panels helps the building meet its energy demands. The builders anticipate that the house will at times create more energy than it needs; so it has been connected to another home in the neighbourhood where the surplus energy can be exported.
BC’s first net-zero energy home is open for public viewing from Feb. 17th-24th and March 19th-28th, from 1 pm to 5 pm.
When it comes to energy efficiency, Whistler has three homes that continue to push the envelope and break new ground in being ‘green’.