Building a dream (and doing it efficiently) in Prince George
'When you walk into this home, everything about it is different'
A new home in Prince George has people in northern British Columbia talking. The 3,260 square foot home, valued at over $500,000, is not only spacious, but it exceeds the standards set by ENERGY STAR® for an energy efficient residential new home.
The single-family detached building has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a large rec room in the basement. If it sounds like a great place to live, it could be yours. The house is a fundraiser for the Prince George Spruce Kings hockey team, which is part of the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL). This year marks the 35th anniversary of the home lottery.
"The junior hockey footprint has been here for nearly 50 years," said Tom Bohmer, president of the Spruce Kings organization.
Originally, the prize home was sold, with profits from the sale of the house benefitting the team. As it's become more expensive to operate a franchise – Bohmer puts the number at over half a million dollars – the fundraiser was switched to a home lottery in hope of creating greater excitement. That's one reason the home at 2601 Links Drive in Prince George was built with energy efficiency in mind.
Making the Spruce Kings lottery home stand out in more ways than one
Brent Scheck's construction company designed and built the home. It's the sixth Spruce Kings lottery home he's constructed, but this one is different. In addition to its size, the Links Drive home is one of the only new homes in northern B.C. to receive an ENERGY STAR for New Homes certification.
"When you walk into this home, everything about it is different," said Bohmer.
The temperature and the sound of the building are affected by its concrete construction. While many homes are built with wood frames and plywood, the house on Links Drive was built with Logix ICF.
The Logix system uses Styrofoam blocks which are assembled, Lego-like, to create the footprint of the house, with one layer of styrofoam for the interior wall, and one for the exterior. Concrete is then poured into the space between the foam layers. The system prevents the flow of air – and heat – through the walls, and provides soundproofing for the entire home.
As a builder, Scheck participates in Natural Resources Canada's Local Energy Efficiency Partnerships (LEEP) hosted by B.C. partners including BC Hydro. He explained that normally, ICF blocks are used for foundations only. "By using it right to the rafters," he said, "potential for thermal breaks sand air leakage was virtually eliminated."
A "blower door test" is one way to measure how sealed-up a home is, and Scheck said that the test on the Links Drive home demonstrated how little air leaks through the walls.
Triple-pane windows add to the home's quiet and comfort while a heat-recovery ventilator ensures that pre-warmed fresh air flows in while stale air flows out of the house.
The efficiency of the home also allows for a natural gas tankless water heater to be used in providing both space and water heating.
This combination of technologies adds up to a quiet, more comfortable home, said Scheck.
BC Hydro supported this project by creating an educational video on the details of planning and constructing the home.
Extra expense in construction pays off
The Spruce Kings' Bohmer said that construction of the house on Links Drive cost between 25% and 30% more than past lottery homes. But he said a good portion of the extra cost comes from having concrete walls from foundation to rafters.
While there are incremental costs in building energy efficient homes, a big reason so few are constructed in the northern regions of B.C. is the extra planning time needed. But in his experience, it doesn't have to cost a lot more. If planned and designed for early on, costs can be minimized and in the end, the home is far better than conventional code built homes.
Adding so many efficiency features has been a way to market the house and engage the community. "The increased cost was worth it," Bohmer added.
And the home's eventual owners will enjoy lower energy bills, and a residence that is quieter, more comfortable and healthier to live in.