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sustainable home vancouver island claire lightfoot

A Sustainable Home on Vancouver Island

By Rise
Mar 31, 2017

When Claire Lightfoot decided to build a new home and wanted to explore sustainable home building options, she came across the Passive House standard and quickly became a leader in a new movement of super-efficient homes!

Claire built a lovely 2,100 square foot home in Qualicum Bay, BC, designed by architect Bruce Fleming-Smith of Oceanside Design. The design uses elements of the Passive House design method, the most energy-efficient building standard in the world. We spoke with Claire about her house.

Vancouver Island Sustainable Home Claire Lightfoot
Vancouver Island Sustainable Home. Photo Credit: Claire Lightfoot

Here is her sustainable story:

Rise: Why did you decide to pursue Passive House design for your new home?

Claire: When I started to work with an architect who had 'green' building experience, I told him I wanted to include energy efficiency in the design. He asked "How green do you want to go?" and provided options. One option was Passive House, which was a new concept to me, so I had to do some research on it. It really resonated with me, my value system, and the idea of both cost containment and being good to the environment. So we decided to design and build toward Passive House standards. However, along the way, there were some design features included that meant I probably wouldn't get Passive House certification. At that point the design was a priority for me, knowing that I would still have a highly efficient house. I didn't feel the need to go all the way to certification, especially if it meant I couldn't get the design I wanted. I also liked the idea of using 'cutting edge' practices. There was only 1 house on Vancouver Island that had been built to Passive House standards and was certified and one house in the process of being built on Gabriola Island. I could be #3! I hoped that having a progressive concept I could help spread the word about energy efficiency and sustainability.

phaesant hill homes clair lightfoot backyard

Rise: Did your contractor have experience with Passive House prior to your project?

Claire: My contractor was Pheasant Hill Homes in Nanaimo, British Columbia. They were building the Passive House on Gabriola Island and their site manager had taken the Passive House courses. They were anxious to get my contract once they saw the potential to have a local example of an architecturally designed Passive House. So it became a win-win situation. Their skill as builders of energy-efficient homes was proven when we had the two blower door tests: mid-construction (Feb. 2016) the result was 0.1859 ACH, and the final result, done a week before completion, was 0.23 ACH.

phaesant hill homes clair lightfoot deck entryway

Rise: Those airtightness figures are amazing – one of the most airtight we've ever seen. Are there any features you find especially interesting, or that were a challenge to incorporate?

Claire: I love the almost sound-proof aspect of the house, especially living on the Island Hwy with lots of traffic. We also made sure there were many windows on the east and south sides which brings in plenty of natural light. I have a sunroom facing south with 3 sides of windows, plus a gable of windows all along the south side on the upper level. We used LED light fixtures and bulbs wherever we could, too, so even when I do have to turn on lights I know they don't draw much power. We were fortunate to have a British Columbia company to provide the triple-glazed windows and exterior doors. Because of the frequency of power outages during stormy weather, I had a battery back-up system with a grid-tied inverter installed. Key appliances, lights, and power plugs are connected to it; I could probably have power from it, albeit limited, for up to 4 days in a 'worst-case scenario' like an earthquake. When the solar panels are installed (likely this spring) then they will 'top-up' the batteries, as needed, before they provide power to the house and feed any extra to BC Hydro's system.

phaesant hill homes clair lightfoot open concept kitchen

Rise: How much does it cost you to heat and cool your building annually and how does this compare to your previous home?

Claire: I haven't been in the house for a year so I can't identify my annual energy costs yet. Besides, we had the coldest winter and record amounts of snow for many years this year! I have also had slightly higher energy costs this winter because of the use of baseboard heaters, compared to having a heat pump, but will be able to recoup some of this once solar panels are installed. I decided that the cost of a heat pump could be used instead of baseboard heaters and 12 solar panels, which I think has more long-term energy sustainability as an option.

phaesant hill homes clair lightfoot bedroom

Sustainable Home Details

  • Built: 2016
  • Square Footage: 2,125 sqft
  • Bedrooms: 2 bedrooms on 2nd floor; 1 den on the main floor that could be a 3rd bedroom
  • PV system: 3 kW system to be installed in the spring of 2017
  • Battery back-up power system

Why we Love this Sustainable Home

  • One of the most airtight homes in Canada with 0.23 ACH (surpasses Passive House standard of 0.6 ACH)
  • Super-insulated: Roof: R 68; Walls: R 38; Floor: R 48
  • Rainwater collection for hand watering of gardens
  • Copper drain water heat recovery pipe
  • Wired ready for solar photovoltaics - coming soon!
  • Energy supply nearly 100% renewable
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-06-22T12:23:32+0000

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