LEEP Field Trials

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Builders participating at NRCan’s LEEP Technology Forums are invited to build an energy efficient home using some of the technologies they learned about. This section profiles some of the builders and the field trial homes they built.

Most recently, builders in BC selected new combinations of energy-efficient technologies. A number of the LEEP builder participants went on to build field trial homes with the new technologies with the objective of achieving energy performance levels ranging from Energy Star all the way to Net Zero Energy Ready. They accomplished their energy performance goals and now share their stories in a series of videos created by LEEP’s BC partners (BC Housing, BC Hydro, Fortis BC in the Lower Mainland of BC in 2015/2016). Led by BC Housing, the videos are available on BC Housing’s web site or accessed directly through the video links below.

LEEP Builder experience Overview / The builders’ perspective

See how master builders and energy advisors used NRCan’s LEEP collaborative, builder-driven process to determine which elements of their home they were going to innovate. Hear how the LEEP process helped them and the industry integrate innovations and technologies into their designs, enabling them to build better, energy-efficient homes.

The following four videos highlight the unique leadership of each builder’s technology selection and enhanced construction practices.

Transcript

Einar Halbig: LEEP is a federal government program it stands for Local Energy Efficiency Partnership and basically, innovation through collaboration.

Nathan Stone: LEEP is a program that's put on by Natural Resources Canada.

Einar Halbig: It's done all over the country, different locations, builders and government and product suppliers all get together in a room and say ‘let's evaluate these different technologies.’

Bob Deeks: The LEEP process really helped us narrow our focus down to the five technologies that we felt were going to give us the biggest bang for our buck on the houses that we are currently in design with.

Brian Lowka: The cost benefit analysis is not just about saving a few dollars on your electric bill, it's about whole home comfort and about healthy living.

Jonathan Zerkee: With the LEEP program for me not only does it give me a market niche to work in. It allows me to separate myself from the average builder out there.

Brian Lowka: You don't have to build a different way. You can build just how you would normally build and then add on as much or as little products and techniques to make your house as energy efficient as you want to be.

Jonathan Zerkee: We're finding out what some of those new technologies are and we're learning about them and we're learning how to implement them.

Einar Halbig: What does it make sense to do or use for this particular climate.

Nathan Stone: We kind of focused on two or three key areas. Outside the skin of the house, the mechanical equipment, the heating and air breathing part of the house, and then as well as the energy production side.

Ryan Coleman: Practices are evolving and so the builder and architect and design community realize the business benefits of moving towards more high performance homes.

Jonathan Zerkee: I believe in the high performance home because we need to think about future generations and we need to think about energy efficiency and our carbon footprint on the earth.

Bob Deeks: LEEP is the opportunity for you to interact with your peer group and find out how you cost effectively deliver on that house of the future today and market that for your business.

LEEP New Westminster/Importance of energy modelling for R2000 micro-homes

Brian Lowka, Master Builder at Faserit Construction, explains the importance of energy modelling to predict and understand the performance of the two R-2000 micro-homes featured here.

Transcript

Brian Lowka: I started when I was 15, as a framer. Bought and sold my first house at 19. I wanted to build by better technique. My company’s Faserit construction, and I build energy efficient homes.

Einar Halbig: How does an energy adviser fit into the whole picture? We use energy modelling software tools to evaluate, predict and understand the performance of the house.

Brian Lowka: It’s almost like a report card for your home.

Einar Halbig: We do blower fan test to see how tight the building is.

Brian Lowka: The blower door test is instrumental in knowing how well your home will perform.

Einar Halbig: Probably in a house of this size, 20, 25 percent of the heat loss would be from just from air leakage.

Your house is about zero point five air changes per hour. Zero point five air changes per hour. That’s tight.

Brian Lowka: Come down to the basement.

Einar Halbig: We can use the thermal image camera tells us which part is warm, which part is hot.

Take a look at the thermal bridging around the window. Dark color indicates a cooler temperature. There’s a bit around the window framing.
Now we look at the wall you can see no thermal bridging through the insulation.

We pan down a little bit further, it’s almost exactly the same temperature difference. The wall is nice and warm, but so is the floor.

Brian Lowka: We didn’t know how well we were going to do. We knocked it out of the park.

We’re nailing up our cladding onto our inch-and-a-half XPS, which is R seven-and-a-half. This is our airtight barrier from the outside. Our air sealing from the outside wraps in which gives us our 100 percent air barrier keeping it warm and dry. We’re not framers and builders anymore, we’re scientists.

If you’re going to have an airtight home, you need to replenish your home with fresh air. This is your core, or the main component of the HRV. The fins go one way, allowing the hot air to go through, and then the fins on the opposite side wash through with cooler air.
The beauty about having an HRV, and having an airtight home, you don’t have cold spots in your home, you don’t have mold and mildew issues. It’s about whole home comfort and about healthy living.

Einar Halbig: What the builders are looking for is a recipe. How do I mix and match this material and that material that’s more cost effective for the builder to create a higher performing more energy efficient house.

Brian Lowka: I’ve purchased and developed two small homes, micro homes we would call them. We exceeded what we were planning on knowing that we have some of the tightest houses in Western Canada. I’m very proud of these buildings.

LEEP Agassiz/Energy Star with Continuous Rigid Insulation

Nathan Stone’s (Partner and Master Builder at Odessa Group) goal, is “to build 300 homes that are all better than the average code.” Through LEEP, his team added continuous rigid insulation to this ENERGY STAR home in Agassiz, B.C., which reduced air leakage and heat loss through the walls.

Transcript

Dave Douglas: Hey I’m Dave Douglas and I am a very proud owner of an energy Star plus home.

Einar Halbig: This house is Energuide 87. This is a house that’s approximately 30 to 40 percent more energy efficient than if it were built just to code minimum.

Nathan Stone: We build masterplan communities, so our goal is to build 300 homes that are all better than the average code. You know we're 20 percent more efficient, We're not quite net zero but we've done it across a whole subdivision. Through the LEEP program we looked at adding in some continuous rigid insulation and wrapping the whole home with, right over top of the plywood underneath the siding.

Einar Halbig: It’s adding about 35 percent R-value to the value of the walls.

Nathan Stone: This was equal to our best result that we've had in the subdivision. You know at one point nine air changes per hour.

Dave Douglas: Here I am now in a super insulated super sealed house. That's like being in a cocoon, right.

Einar Halbig: So this is the air source heat pump. The air source heat pump is technology we looked at in the LEEP forum in terms of using less energy to heat the inside of the house. This is one of the most energy efficient ways we can use electricity to pull heat energy out of the outside air to heat the house.

Let's take a look at the mechanical room of the house. The mechanical room is the heart and lungs of the house. You've got the indoor coil connected to the outdoor heat pump. This is bringing the heat energy into and distributing it to the forced air ductwork. Over here you've got the heat recovery ventilator.

Dave Douglas: The HRV system it is constantly refreshing the air as it's capturing the heat from the exhaust air.

Einar Halbig: You got the ventilation system over here, the lungs of the house. And you've got the space heating system over here.

Dave Douglas: You don't have to worry about fresh air here.

Nathan Stone: With this home we put on photovoltaic solar panels.

Dave Douglas: Six o'clock in the morning the first rays of sun hits those panels, you can see the little blue line on the power graph going up. My hydro bills, you know what, I win every time the sun comes up in the morning.

Nathan Stone: Dave our homeowner uses his iPad app for his solar panels. He gets to see real-time what his solar panels are doing. Hey how much did we generate this year versus last year. A peak day yesterday you can boil it down so you know what this was actually running probably almost the whole house and we may have been selling power back to BC Hydro.

Dave Douglas: Exactly. Anytime you want you can go check the power meter and see how much you've exported.

Nathan Stone: When you're generating power to hydro, you know our overall energy usage is going to be reduced drastically.

Dave Douglas: Twenty-five-dollar bill can't beat that.

Nathan Stone: You know that money you've invested in something like solar panels to see it starting to pay back you know day after day by the power they are generating really kind of a cool experience.

Einar Halbig: 2032 they're expecting their code will require net zero energy houses.

Nathan Stone: Net zero homes being that they produce as much clean energy throughout a period of a year as they consume.

Einar Halbig: If you could have a subdivision of net zero energy houses, it does make a big difference.

Dave Douglas: Glad to see that somehow, I may have influenced the direction of energy efficiency in this subdivision

LEEP Chilliwack/R2000 home with focus on ventilation

Jonathan Zerkee, Master Builder and President of Sonbuilt Homes, builds high-performance homes because he “cares about our environment and the living environment of the individual person.” This video focuses on clean air (the lungs of the house) at an R2000 certified Chilliwack, B.C. home.

Transcript

Will Barrow: I’m Will Barrow. My family and I, we built a high performance home.

Jonathan Zerkee: I built high performance homes because I care about our environment and I care about the living environment of the individual person.

Will Barrow: I have allergies and my kids will probably have allergies too; so we wanted to have clean air.

Jonathan Zerkee: So when we build a home that’s really airtight, we need to make sure that we’re changing that air out to keep it fresh.

This is the lungs of the house. It’s the fresh air management system. The way this system works is it takes that warm stale air that’s inside your home and it uses the energy that you paid for to heat the cool fresh air that is coming in. As it does that process, it’s recovering the energy.

Will Barrow: In our old house, we were paying about 200 dollars a month. Now we’re about 60 dollars a month.

Jonathan Zerkee: What makes this home energy efficient is the very airtight building envelope.

Will Barrow: This winter, power went out. It was like minus two. It was snowing. I had ice hockey out on my pond there. We set our home to about 18 degrees Celsius. After four days of no power, it was 17 degrees. The house is retaining its energy.

Jonathan Zerkee: This is at 30,000 BTU gas furnace in a 4,100 square foot home. This piece of equipment is right-size for this home.

Will Barrow: We went low cost on electricity, dual with gas and electricity. We’re saving a lot of money.

Jonathan Zerkee: The homeowner wanted to have floor to ceiling windows in their two story great room.

Will Barrow: But from an energy efficiency standpoint you’re not going to have that.

Jonathan Zerkee: By creating the roofline you see in between the two stories there, we actually offered a little bit of shading that would happen in the summer. In the fall and winter months, when the sun is lower, we’re going to take in some of that solar heat gain which is going to be important to help heat the home.

Here we have the thermostat which controls the home comfort system. It allows you to make very simple changes to temperature relative humidity and the fresh air management system which is the HRV.

Our standard home is based around the Natural Resources Canada R2000 program.

Will Barrow: We wanted to build our dream home and we wanted to build high performance energy efficient home.

Jonathan Zerkee: Now the budget they initially started with was a little bit low. We start with the building envelope.

Will Barrow: And then you’re like okay we could add on, and make it even more efficient afterwards.

Jonathan Zerkee: We found a way to balance the energy efficiency side with the family’s budget.

Will Barrow: The house is awesome Jonathan. We love it. The LED lights, the tankless water system; it’s been wonderful. We’ve been able to maintain the temperature that we want, we can have the fireplace on and no overheating. The air is wonderful.

Jonathan Zerkee: Good, I’m glad to hear that. It certainly is a beautiful view out the windows here into the field.

LEEP Squamish/Right-sized mechanicals

Bob Deeks, Owner and Master Builder of RDC Fine Homes, shares the importance of right-sized mechanical systems. His team built two energy-efficient homes with the help of an energy advisor and HVAC designer.

Transcript

Garth Campbell: This is my home, this is my parents’ home; and they’re both high efficiency houses.

Bob Deeks: We built two houses side by side, one for the kids who are 50 and one for their parents that we’re in right now.

This home is different because it’s an Energuide 85 home. It would be one of the most sustainably built energy efficient houses built in Canada today.

Garth Campbell: For the high efficiency home, the envelope is critical. The heating system, the air exchange system. Door seals triple glazed windows all combined to make it such an incredibly comfortable perfect house to be in.

Bob Deeks: As we design the house, one of the most important members of the team is your energy adviser.

Ryan Coleman: A home is the biggest asset that you’re most likely going to own in your entire life, so you want to make sure that that asset is performing to the best that it is capable of. So achieving a well operating system starts with doing room by room load calculations.

Bob Deeks: Measuring every room, measuring the volumes, measuring the insulation the windows. If we bring in energy adviser and it’s like measuring something twice and cutting it once.

The vast majority of houses today, when the mechanical contractor looks to come in to size the mechanical system, tells you… like that … uh, you know, 30,000, 70,000, 100,000 BTUs.

Ryan Coleman: It’s not rule of thumb. It’s not, “Hey I’ve got a certain size house so it needs a certain size system”. You need to be more sophisticated than that.

Bob Deeks: Here we’ve got the heart of this system isn’t this an amazing furnace. You know it’s so small and compact. When we first engaged with our HVAC contractor they wanted to put a 70,000 BTU furnace in here. Once we did the mechanical design with you guys, and we understood exactly what our heat loss was, we’ve ended up with a 30,000 BTU unit.

Ryan Coleman: And then I guess, when you look at the actual system itself, we’ve got a very high performance efficiency rating at 95. It’s obviously Energy Star certified. Fits really well into this mechanical Room.

Bob Deeks: And you know that’s one of the biggest challenges we’ve had with our architects is they always want to shrink our mechanical room. We finally have a furnace here that fits in to a nice compact space.

Ryan Coleman: So a properly sized system delivering its operating intent sounds like a good idea to me.

Bob Deeks: And an Energy Star certification to meet our performance goals.

Ryan Coleman: Things like HOT2000 and the EnerGuide rating system, it’s really a foundational element to all high performance homes in Canada.

Bob Deeks: One of the amazing things about this home is the way it’s designed is that the floors feel warm. Most people walking into the house would actually think that we had heated floors.

Ryan Coleman: People don’t really think about that when they when they think about forced air. They think about hydronic. I loved when the homeowner was talking about that actual level of level of comfort was achieved in the house. It’s fantastic.

Bob Deeks: You know, the concept was that it would blow the air across the room and create that even thermal comfort.

So everybody wants to know what’s the payback on my energy efficiency house. What you get for that extra investment is you get a healthy environment for your family; a place that’s comfortable warm in winter, cool in summer.

Garth Campbell: Being satisfied and happy where you are, it’s the best value for the dollar. It’s all about quality of life.

Bob Deeks: It’s an amazing view isn’t it. It’s unbelievable. You know, these two lots side by side, view of the wilderness in this urban setting here.

Garth Campbell: Couldn’t have workedout better.

LEEP Thompson Cariboo Region/Advanced Mechanical Technologies with Focus on the Envelope

This video highlights the Alkali Lake Health & Wellness Centre, which received a Net Zero Energy Ready label from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA). This is the first such project in a First Nations community and in a northern climate to achieve this recognition. The Esk’etemc First Nation, in partnership with health authorities, opened this five-bed facility to provide indigenous residents of the Thompson Cariboo region with culturally appropriate recovery services. LEEP introduced Sam Zirnhelt, owner of Zirnhelt Timber Frames, to technologies and experts he chose to work with on this project.

Transcript

Charlene Belleau: Cutting the ribbon it’s like okay we’re here, it’s happened. It’s real. You know we’re standing in the facility. A lot of the timbers that are a part of this building come from our land. Come from within the Esk’etemc Nation.

Sam Zirnhelt: Today was really a special day. It was great to see the different generations and also just how many people came from different communities, the pride felt there from the community members and some of the friendships we’re starting to develop there seem to really come together today. It was very enjoyable.

Eric DenOuden: What intrigues me is the way it was constructed to be a very energy efficient structure and to be net zero ready.

Sam Zirnhelt: Once we started down the design path and realized hey, this is going to be a really cool building that’s going to be here for a couple of hundred years the way we’ve built it. What else can we do to make it better?

That’s where we got some interest from Natural Resources Canada and their LEEP program as well as BC Hydro and BC Housing.

Joe Hart: To have something like this that’s finished and monitored and something that we can look at and learn from is just a huge step.

Sam Zirnhelt: The way the building is designed unlike traditional timber frame there are no protrusions through the envelope so the building is extremely airtight. It’s just under 0.5 air chambers per hours. The primary focus for achieving net zero is to upgrade the envelope. We wanted to take it significantly further. We needed an overall minimum of 60% reduction in energy usage.

Eric DenOuden: We’re celebrating something. It’s the first building like this in northern BC and also it’s a first net zero building for the First Nations people. So it’s a first in a couple of ways and I think we’re here to show it off and to brag about it throughout Canada.

Sam Zirnhelt: During the design process where the modeling, like using HOT2000 for example comes in. It starts to tell you once you’ve improved the envelope you can really start to refine where your money is best spent.

Some of the other elements that were important were triple glazed windows as well as a super insulated foundation and under slab insulation.

Then once you get into the mechanical system it’s what level of efficiency you require in the HRV, what do we gain from installing heat pumps.

We’ve heavily emphasized in the last ten years on prefabrication. I think it’s the way to go. It allows us to keep people working in the shop in a controlled environment, reduce waste and really perfect the product itself more than we are able to with site building. It’s a meaningful project. It’s worth getting excited about. It’s worth putting extra effort into.

Charlene Belleau: It’s just a beautiful building. I can’t say enough about what we can do in a space like this.

Eric DenOuden: It’s the way of the future. We’ve come a long way in new homes. This is the leading technology that we’re using, a very energy efficient home, easy on our environment.