LEED Comes to
Townships house is a prototype of environmentally friendly homes of the future
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Alexandre Thibodeau takes in the spectacular view of the lush green, mist-shrouded
Thibodeau doesn't know their names. He'll figure that out when life slows down a little for him and his partner, Marie-Eve Cloutier.
They've had two children, Léopol and Mirek, and, when Mirek was just a month old in early 2006, they moved here to the hamlet of
After two years, the house is almost ready to be lived in, with the custom-made, super-insulated windows to be installed in coming weeks.
It's been an amazing journey for the first Canadian home to be accepted under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green-building standard of the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council, the most stringent certification process of its kind in
Thibodeau, who has a bachelor's degree in architecture, designed the house himself to achieve a LEED platinum rating, the council's highest level of certification.
Conceived in 1998 by the Natural Resources Defense Council and ecologically minded building professionals, LEED has quickly become the most widely recognized green-building standard in
Projects get points for reducing energy consumption with solar or geothermal heating and good insulation, lowering water intake and using recycled or sustainably produced building materials that don't emit chemicals like formaldehyde.
It's all part of one of the fast-growing areas of combating climate change -a revolution in the building industry.
The stakes for the environment are huge. Putting up and maintaining buildings and homes accounts for 70 per cent of
At the Canadian Green Building Council's first national convention last week in Toronto, interest was so great that the exhibitors' floor space had to be expanded three times to accommodate participants, said Nancy Grenier, spokeswoman for the council, which has 1,600 member companies and nearly 5,000 individual members in its eight chapters-mostly architects and other building professionals.
Much of the demand is motivated by the most pragmatic of reasons: building green makes sense financially.
A 2003 study of LEED commercial buildings for the state of
So far, however, LEED has mostly been applied in large commercial, industrial and government buildings.
Thibodeau's project in
Since Thibodeau signed on in 2006, about 100 other Canadian residential projects have been accepted.
Bowing to the demand, the Canadian Green Building Council, which adapts LEED standards to this country's harsher climate, announced earlier this year it would start work on a unique "LEED Canada for Homes" standard specifically intended for residential construction. It's to be launched in spring 2009.
The council's goal is to use LEED to inspire changes in the broader construction industry and reduce the environmental footprint of 1 million new and existing Canadian homes and 100,000 other buildings by 2015.
Blain-Cosgrove is the owner of Écohabitation, a
He also helped pioneer green residential building in
He got the idea from Thibodeau. Blain-Cosgrove, who comes from a family of carpenters and building professionals, was already renovating the house using an environmentally-friendly design.
Thibodeau heard about the project and called Blain-Cosgrove up, saying he had just managed to convince the U.S. Green Building Council to accept his
At first, the
Thibodeau persisted and won the
"(Thibodeau) is the original one to put the pieces together in
In April, Blain-Cosgrove was chosen as
The heat will radiate through the house from a stylish round two-storey brick-and-lime chimney that Thibodeau and Cloutier have just finished building.
It's part of an innovative system of energy efficiency that Thibodeau estimated will reduce the house's heating bill by 70 percent and eliminate the need for air conditioning.
Also involved is an adapted geothermal air-exchange system-70 metres of pipes embedded in the ground behind the house that will draw in warm air during winter and cool air in summer. Heat during the winter will also come from a solar-heated wall-a black-painted steel siding on the roof that the sun will warm to as much as 74 degrees Celsius.
An automated control system will control the house's temperature by tapping into the various heating and cooling systems through an elaborate system of ducts, fans and shutters.
"This house is supposed to be able to take care of itself," Thibodeau said. "I always dreamed when I had a family that we'd live in a home that was a little crazy."
Thibodeau's heating system has attracted the interest of Hydro-Quebec, which will consider funding a study of how it performs under its technical innovation program.
Also bringing down the heating bill is a ridiculous amount of insulation. The roof will achieve an R60 insulation rating (R30 is the industry standard for new homes in
The house will also use dramatically less water because rainwater will be collected in underground cisterns for washing clothes and watering the four-terrace, 820-square-foot garden on the house's "green roof."
Some of the features were challenges because so few homes have been built according to LEED standards, especially in
Thibodeau spent weeks contacting suppliers to try to find lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as having been harvested in a sustainable manner. No luck. The companies with FSC-certified woodlots were using it for paper products, not lumber.
In the end, he found a farmer in the Townships who harvested the needed trees from his woodlot in a sustainable way.
Thibodeau hopes LEED's spread will help spark a market for suppliers of green-friendly wood and other construction material.
"The first contractor to call up and ask for FSC wood is going to pay top dollar. But if large developers begin ordering it in quantity, lumber companies are going to start fighting for that market."
Ultimately, he hopes small projects like his will help convince the mass real-estate market to embrace environmentally-friendly design. "Building yourself is difficult. We're not the typical project."
Blain-Cosgrove agreed. "The whole purpose (of LEED) is market transformation. Certification is not the end. That's just a means to greening the industry."
Yet, he said homebuilding and renovation aren't likely to change very quickly without much larger government incentives for going greening. Research shows such incentives are among the most efficient uses of government subsidies to cut overall greenhouse-gas emissions, he said.
"Where we live changes how we live," Thibodeau said. "If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't be in architecture."
SIDEBAR: What Makes a House Green
- Hot heat: Heating bills will be cut an estimated 70 percent by a combination of a high-performance brick masonry heater, passive solar heating from a huge bank of south-facing windows, a geothermal air-exchange system and a solar-heated wall on the roof. The geothermal system will also bring in cooler air in summer, eliminating the need for air conditioning.
- Smart controls: The futuristic house has an automated control system to regulate interior temperature by tapping into the various heating and cooling systems through an elaborate system of ducts, fans and shutters.
- Insane insulation: Piles of insulation will give the roof an R60 insulation rating (R30 is the industry standard for new homes in
- Green wood: Wood for the houseframe comes from a sustainably cut, local woodlot.
- Non-polluting materials: Interior materials were chosen that don’t emit toxic chemicals like formaldehyde.
- Water: Rainwater will be collected in underground cisterns for washing clothes and watering the four-terrace, 820-square-foot garden on the house’s “green roof.”For more information:
- Alexandre and Marie-Eve's website
[TAGS: Eastern Townships]