Can a standard four-bedroom, 1,450 square foot home be affordably built using the latest sustainable, high performance building practices?
As Mike Reynolds discovered, the answer is a ringing, emphatic “Yes!”
Reynolds, a LEED Canada for Homes Green Rater and former homebuilder, is co-founder and editor of ecohome.net, a website that shows home owners “why building a high performance, healthy home is no longer just a noble undertaking, but a smart financial decision.”
Try this: Working with a $250,000 budget, Reynolds and his ecohome.net team rolled up their sleeves and built Canada’s first home -- and the world’s second home -- to be certified LEED Platinum under LEED v4 guidelines. The house is located just north of Ottawa, Ontario (ASHRAE climate zone 6).
What’s remarkable about the new home is how … well, how unremarkable the construction process was. And that’s the big lesson, according to Reynolds.
“Building scientists don’t build homes. And home builders for the most part don’t pay attention to building science. We decided to practice what we preach and show home buyers and builders just how affordable and practical it is to build a high performance home,” Reynolds says.
Edelweiss House, as it is known, operates on an annual utility budget of about $500. That translates to just over $41 a month, all heating, cooling, and interior loads included. Most new homes today average 3.14 ACH (air exchanges per hour). Edelweiss House is rated .69 ACH. This market-rate home is five times more airtight than typical new homes.
“No one can tell me this can’t be built on a normal budget,” Reynolds states. “We did it.”
Edelweiss House showcases many expected high performance features, such as a 10-zone hydronic radiant floor with electric boiler and an air-to-air electric heat pump.
Where the ecohome.net team broke new ground was their uncompromising position on insulation. “Rather than putting $10,000 in a furnace, we said ‘Let’s put an extra $10,000 into insulation and reduce the size of our heating infrastructure.’ We’re not hemorrhaging heat from every corner of the house,” Reynolds states.
To staunch the “energy bleeding,” Reynolds doubled-down on stone wool insulation from Roxul®, chiefly ComfortBoard™ product, a rigid stone wool insulation sheathing board that is non-combustible, water repellent, fire resistant, and sound absorbent.
Edelweiss House is packed with ComfortBoard, top, bottom and sideways. Under the slab? It’s super-insulated to R-32 with an 8-inch thick pad of ComfortBoard. The walls? There are 8 inches of ComfortBoard and another 5.5 inches of Comfortbatt stone wool insulation for an effective R-50 rating. The ceiling? More ComfortBoard for a whopping R-95. Canadian winters and summers bounce right off Edelweiss House.
“ComfortBoard doesn’t trap moisture. It’s a very breathable wall assembly. That’s something we wanted,” Reynolds explains. “Leave it in the rain and the water just runs off. There’s no moisture risk. Can you say that about XPS or EPS foam?”
For Reynolds, every construction decision circles back to ‘Does it make financial sense?’
“Utility bills are only getting higher. This home makes financial sense. It makes ecological sense. It’s durable. It’s affordable. If there’s ever a power outage, you’re not moving into a gym with 400 other people or with your mother-in-law,” the builder laughs.
For more information including technical data sheets and case studies, visit roxul.com/stone+wool or call 800.265.6878.