A team of green building students working on a house in the east end of Peterborough, Ontario hope it will become Canada’s greenest home upon completion.
The two storey, three bedroom home is a model of sustainability and self-reliance, from the solar panels fixed to its roof to the human waste composter installed in its basement to the very materials employed in its construction.
The house generates its own electricity, collects and treats rainwater, and creates fertilizer from human effluent via an odor free process.
It features a total of 23 triple-gazed windows, and its composting toilet employs only a tenth of a litre of water with each flush.
The project is the creation of eight students from The Endeavour Centre, a non-profit sustainable building school located in Peterborough.
Chris Magwood, executive director at The Endeavour Centre and manager of the project, says the team “feel[s] it’s the greenest home because we’ve come at it from all different aspects.”
Magwood says they sought to obtain as many of the building’s materials from environmentally friendly sources as possible, while at the same time endeavoring to maintain a contemporary feel.
“We took everything we could from the natural world…and put it in a modern context so it doesn’t look ‘cave mannish,’” he said.
The home is built from prefabricated straw bale walls which are structurally solid and provide sound insulation, while the interior of the home features solid plank walls and maple flooring.
According to Magwood, the only non-natural materials used in the project were the plastic light switches and thermostat.
The ambition of the project’s student designers is for the home to pass the Living Building Challenge – one of the toughest green building standards currently in operation. They also hope to obtain US Green Building Council LEED certification.
Andy Schonberger, director and vice-chair of the Toronto chapter of the Canada Green Building Council, thinks the project has a good chance at fulfilling its ambition, as it is “in the top one per cent of the top one per cent” of developments in its category.
“Going for those two certifications…both are difficult standards to obtain,” Schonberger says.
“It’s laudable to go to that detail. It’s proof this type of green building design and operation works.”
While the team experienced some difficulty in sourcing natural, environmentally friendly materials from regional suppliers, the project nonetheless proves that green building can be an economical proposition even during the construction phase.
The total cost of the basic materials for the project did not exceed those for a conventional home, and with a price tag in the mid-$600,000s the house is not overly expensive compared to its peers on the market.
While the solar, water heating and composting installations did incur additional costs, they will reduce expenses for the home in the long run while also providing a boon of CA$3,500 a year via the sale of electricity to the grid.