Buildings We Love

Tried, tested (and truly comfortable) in Chilliwack

Three-storey Sonbuilt Custom Home in Chilliwack features four bedrooms, two bathrooms and an R-2000 insulation rating. Show caption
Entrance to the Sonbuilt Custom Home in Chilliwack. Show caption
Windows in the bathrooms and throughout the home are triple-glazed. Toilets are low-flow. Show caption
Kitchen of the Barrow family's home features LED lighting and ENERGY STAR appliances. Show caption

With certification comes the knowledge that things were done right

It's not easy to build an energy efficient home. You might start off with the best of intentions, but so many things can happen during construction.

And while designs may have builders following construction guidelines that are likely to achieve energy savings, you don't often know whether the final product achieved what was intended.

"Many homes don't actually meet standards for energy," said Jonathan Zerkee, "because they are never tested after completion."

Zerkee is president of Sonbuilt Custom Homes, and for more than 20 years, he's been testing the houses he builds. That includes a recent 3,200-square foot home, designed and built in Chilliwack, for the Barrow family.

Insulated concrete forms help keep home cool in summer heat

The three-storey home features four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and lots of space for children to play. Will Barrow said that his family's home is "wonderful".

Even during the hot summer, Barrow said they've not had to rely much on air conditioning (AC). "I was scared that the house was going to overheat," he said on the phone from his home. During the heat wave, Barrow said they turned off the AC when they left the house during the day. But even after many hours, the temperature inside the house never changed more than a couple of degrees.

The foundation of the home is made from insulated concrete forms, which provides a high level of insulation and stable indoor temperature. The efficient building envelope incorporates a unique airtight drywalling technique to significantly reduce the amount of air leakage that often occurs in conventional new homes. Triple glazed windows help to keep the temperatures constant and are also good for noise reduction.

To ensure that the home is supplied with fresh air throughout, an ENERGY STAR® heat recovery ventilator was installed. Heating and cooling is provided by a highly-efficient furnace and heat pump system, and it's all controlled with a touch-screen, wall-mounted display.

"The system is really neat," said Barrow. Together, it all works to keep the house warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.

Meeting R-2000 standard goes well beyond building code

In the final stages of construction, the Chilliwack home was equipped with additional efficiency measures, including LED lights and low-flow toilets.

Energy-efficient homes can result in much lower energy bills when energy usage is carefully managed by the homeowner. Zerkee says that operational costs for high-performance homes can be half that of conventional homes.

He explained that building high-performance homes bring additional benefits including:

  • Improved health of the occupants by eliminating chemicals and the potential for mould in the home.
  • Increased comfort because airtight homes with heat recovery ventilators have more consistent temperatures and ventilation throughout.
  • Increased durability from better building practices means reduced maintenance costs and longevity; homes can still perform well after 50 years.
  • A smaller carbon footprint means better sustainability.

Zerkee had an energy advisor test the home to make sure it met the R-2000 standard, which Zerkee says is 50% above what the building code in British Columbia requires from an energy efficiency perspective. "We believe in what the program stands for and what it brings to the customer," he explained.

Whether it's R2000, Net Zero or ENERGY STAR, third-party certifications prove that homes were built with energy efficiency built in. "It's a way for the customer – and future buyers – to know that the home has been inspected by someone other than the builder – an independent energy specialist."

Zerkee believes it's important to build homes to be energy efficient. "We need to value the resources we're using today for future generations."