Smaller homes fit lifestyle-conscious, energy-aware buyers

The Qualicum Landing development near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island features Power Smart Gold-rated homes ranging from 1,070 to 2,000 square feet. (Photo courtesy

Nina Winham

A discerning new breed of buyer is trading in large homes for compact, well-designed homes that will meet their lifestyle as they age.

But they’re not just seeking a lighter financial burden and less property to tend. They’re a leading indication that buyers are growing savvy about energy efficiency as well.

“People are more aware of energy efficiency today than they ever have been,” says construction manager Daniel Duggan of Corfield Glades Development  Ltd. “If it comes directly out of your pocket, people wake up. Buyers are asking questions; they’re very sensitive to what energy is costing them today and what it will cost them in the future.”

Corfield Glades Development is the developer of Creekside at Corfield,  a development of 60 patio homes in Parksville. The homes, which range from 1,335 square feet up to 1,520 sq.ft., have an average Energuide rating of 83, qualifying them for the Gold level rating under the Power Smart New Home Program.

They accomplish this with radiant in-floor heating, hot water on demand, energy efficient windows and an architectural design that lets in plenty of natural light, reducing the need for electric lighting. Duggan says the value lies in the way these features do double-duty: they save energy and enhance the living experience, too.

“The natural light adds tremendously to the sense of spaciousness. It’s marvelous to see how bright the units are – plus sunlight is a source of energy to warm the building,” says Duggan. “For the heat, radiant is more energy efficient [than forced air] – and when your feet are happy, your whole body is happy. There’s no question about it – the things that improve energy efficiency also create a more enjoyable home.”

Qualicum Landing is another development targeting buyers who want to live well and reduce their footprint. The Power Smart Gold-rated homes range from 1,070 sq. ft. to 2,000 sq. ft., but Qualicum Landing marketing director Anna DiFiore says most buyers are choosing the 1,500 sq. ft. range, which are “quite a bit less than the 2,500 sq. ft. homes they’re leaving.”

Smaller homes are typically more energy efficient due to the reduced space, but the development has further ensured good resource performance by incorporating an energy efficient heating system, Energy Star appliances, and low-flow plumbing fixtures,. Buyers can opt for a range of additional “green” features, such as bamboo flooring.

Like Duggan, DiFiore says the era of the energy-savvy buyer has arrived. “People want to know the bills are going to be reasonable at the end of the month, and they want to be sustainable,” she says. “It’s really important to the market. Buyers want to know they’re in a community that’s looking to the future.”

With an eye to that concern for environmental stewardship, Qualicum Landing’s developers restored a fish bearing stream at the edge of the property and installed a waterfront community garden.

“If you go to Spain, London, or elsewhere in Europe, their standard is much higher than ours is now,” says DiFiore. “In five to 10 years I think those higher standards are going to spread worldwide.

"Ten years down the road, we don’t want to be uncomfortable with the standard we put forth, so we said let’s raise that standard as high as we possibly can while still making these homes economic.”

Although certain styles in new homes come and go, DiFiore doesn’t see the shift to sustainability as a passing trend.

“We don’t live in the same world we did even 10 years ago,” she says. “We understand the environmental impacts of high consumption homes, and we have now have a good range of energy efficient options available. Very soon, if a new development doesn’t have certain energy and sustainability standards in place and the developer isn’t looking to the future, it will most certainly affect sales.

Duggan and DiFiore both say energy efficiency has become a standard part of the way they market new homes, seeing it as something that adds value today, and to future resale value as well.

Says Duggan, “I think in tomorrow’s real estate market, when people purchase a home, almost the first question they’re going to ask is, ‘What is the rating?’”

How to participate in the Power Smart New Home Program:

  1. Conduct a pre-construction evaluation. Get house plans evaluated by a Certified Energy Advisor who will make recommendations to increase the performance rating of the home.
  2. Construct the home(s).
  3. Conduct a post-construction verification. After construction, a blower door test is conducted by the Certified Energy Advisor to verify the air changes per hour (ACH), which is inputted into the software program for a final performance rating.
  4. Apply for incentives and a Power Smart label. The home receives a Power Smart  label when an EGNH 77 rating or higher is achieved.

For more information, contact Doug Overholt, Power Smart New Home representative, at 604 929 7408 or by email.

Nina Winham is a Vancouver-based sustainability consultant and frequent contributor to