on June 21, 2017 by test_editor in Archive_2017, June, Print Articles, WEB-EXTRA content, Comments Off on June 22, 2017: Living “Green”; Passive house makes an active statement.

June 22, 2017: Living “Green”; Passive house makes an active statement.

June 22, 2017: Living “Green”;
Passive house makes an active statement.

By Debra Huron.

In a neighbourhood where intensification and huge new builds are blighting the once tree-lined streets, Champlain Park residents Mike and Robin Peixoto have opted to build an ultra-green and smaller footprint home for their 4-person family.

In July, they expect to move into the first passive house in Champlain Park, one of only a few in this city, with teen daughter Lauren, and younger sibling Izabel.

Their home will be heated by the sun. It has no furnace, and at the moment, no solar panels. Mike, who teaches green architecture at Algonquin College and owns the architectural firm Arco-Verde, says that their large south-facing roof will eventually be fitted with panels. The garage roof might be, too.

“The reason it’s called a passive house is because it relies on solar energy for heat,” he explains. Windows are placed where they will have maximum exposure to the sun. “Then, once the energy is inside, your envelope has to be sufficient so that it keeps that energy in. You’re not really relying on equipment, hence the term passive.”

With a footprint of 700 square feet (sq-ft), the house takes up less space on their 135 foot-deep lot than the post-WW2 bungalow they bought 7 years ago and tore down last fall.

For years, this eco-conscious couple dodged the idea of tearing down their former home. Aware of the impact that demolition has on landfill, they originally planned to build a two-storey addition. This would have meant staying with a conventional heating system, or attempting to integrate solar with a furnace. Insulation in the original house was abysmal, with a blower test showing 7 air changes an hour.

“That was a lot of wasted energy,” says Mike.

They decided to keep the footprint on the lot small and insulate with one level of Roxul board and 3 levels of Roxul batt insulation (made from volcanic rock, not fibreglass), thus creating a house with 0.6 air changes per hour. Mike says this kind of building design takes the house into “the stratosphere realm” of R values.

The roof will have an R value of 110, compared to a typical roof’s R value of 60, which Mike describes as “generous.” Many roofs are much lower. Windows from Austria are triple-pane and called “net gainers” because they keep the sun’s heat inside the house.

The family’s goal in building new rather than re-purposing an old house involves creating private space for maturing children, family space on the main floor, and a third-storey loft. Robin says, “We have many names for the loft. We all want it. Our younger daughter calls it her slumber party location.” Mike jokes that it will be his “man cave in the sky,” a place to commune with his drums and guitar and keyboard.

An important feature of the house is its lasting value. Robin and Mike want to grow old in this house. To make this happen, the design allows space, on all three floors, for an elevator. “We’re not installing one now, but it’s possible for the future,” Mike says.

The bungalow they tore town was 1600 sq-ft., and the new home will be just 410 sq-ft. larger (1320 sq-ft. on the first and second floors combined, and 690 sq-ft. for the loft). From an energy efficiency perspective, stacking living space over a small footprint makes sense, says Mike. The home’s space heating will come from green-powered electricity that runs a combined heating and cooling pump.

The new home retains a large backyard and a medium-size Norway maple in the front yard. “We will be able to appreciate the tree in the front yard better now,” says Robin, because their second-storey bedroom windows opens right into its canopy.

family of stand in frontyard of future 2 story home

A ‘Lof’t green goal

Photo Caption: Right-sizing to grow old(er)-in, the Peixoto family stands by their new home environment still under construction. Photo provided by D. Huron.

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