Buildings We Love

Buyer and builder hack the subdivision standard

Dave and Judy Douglas' home in Agassiz looks pretty much like a lot of other homes in the Harrison Highlands sub-division. But with $30,000 in upgrades, the home qualifies as an ENERGY STAR-plus home. Show caption
Views over the Fraser Valley make homes in Harrison Highlands popular. Features such as one-inch Styrofoam insulation over the building envelope make the Douglas's upgraded version super efficient. Show caption
Energy-efficiency is a consideration throughout, including the kitchen where homes at Harrison Highlands are equipped with Whirlpool ENERGY STAR stainless steel appliances. Show caption
Low-flush toilets in bathrooms limit water use. Show caption
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Agassiz couple's desire for comfort & efficiency spawns collaboration

Situated on a scenic ridge in the Fraser Valley, Dave and Judy Douglas's new home is nearly indistinguishable from the all the other houses in the Harrison Highlands subdivision of Agassiz with its airy, West Coast vibe, and spacious and modern open-concept living areas.

But the Douglas's home is decidedly different.

After living in a house since 1975 that "just barely scraped past CMHC for approval as far as insulation goes," Dave and Judy had been waiting for an opportunity to make use of new home-building technologies. On the hunt for a new home in the Fraser Valley, they were drawn to builder Odessa Group's plans to target ENERGY STAR® qualification in its Harrison Highlands development, and challenged Odessa Group's Nathan Stone to take their new build even further.

Stone was eager to support Dave and Judy's vision.

"Dave's just one of those guys who likes to understand things, and thinks – 'why would I want a house like everybody else'?" said Stone.

And as one of several regional builder participants in Natural Resource Canada's Local Energy Efficiency Partnership (LEEP) program, Stone was able to offer the Douglases a chance to use new and innovative building techniques at a lower cost.

Tight building envelope key to efficient solar power usage

Natural Resources Canada's James Glouchkow, who oversees the LEEP program, said that Nathan and the Douglases benefited from the LEEP program's keen examination of the most appropriate technologies for specific regions and climates.

"LEEP gives builders answers to what the best new home practices are in British Columbia right now, and how builders can explain the information to the homeowner," said Glouchkow. "They looked at the most innovative technology in PV [photovoltaic], including roof-integrated PV systems. The builders asked three different presenters to look at it from three totally different angles."

Stone applied several of the new practices examined in the program to the Douglas' home. Complementing the Douglas' solar panels power production, Stone applied one-inch rigid insulation over the entire building envelope – a result of a LEEP collaboration with Owens Corning – to reduce energy use.

A tight building envelope reduced unnecessary heat loss, while the modulating heat pump efficiently heats the Douglas home on an as-needed basis.

"You want to piggyback everything on top of each other," Dave said.

The Douglas' $30,000 worth of upgrades exceeded Odessa Group's typical ENERGY STAR standard, achieving ENERGY STAR Plus. Putting into place the many unique features took more time than the six months typically needed to build an Odessa home. But careful planning is key, and Stone says Dave and Judy are considering adding more sustainability features such as like rain barrels, in the future.

"Putting in the technology at inception of a building project, it's very inexpensive as opposed to trying to retrofit houses," said Dave. "I've got a meticulously built house with a fantastic view and awesome floor plan and that's what people will see. I have no regrets about any money that's been spent over and above the original price."

Related story:

Builders get better at requests for high-efficiency homes