Going green: The latest and greatest in sustainable home construction trends

Photo Credit The Daniels Corporation.

Photo Credit The Daniels Corporation.

When homeowners want ideas on how to renovate and find out what’s trending, one area some people look to are new construction projects in the neighbourhood. In an interview with Adam Molson, director of project implementation for The Daniels Corporation in Toronto, he says one of the top trends these days is sustainability.

The future is sustainable construction

The Daniels’ new Field House project in Toronto’s downtown core is comprised of 24 condominium townhomes and will be set up with electric systems that generate renewable energy on site.

Field House will utilize such technologies as rooftop solar panels as a source of renewable energy and high-efficient electric heat pump HVAC units instead of traditional gas furnaces. Electric vehicle charging stations are going to be another “must-have” for homeowners looking to the future. Field House is fossil fuel-free housing that will reduce emissions 89 per cent compared with conventional housing.

Real estate development’s push towards sustainability is not only better for our planet but better for the health and pocketbook of the homeowner, Molson says.

Molson notes that Field House “is a real game changer and we think it will be the way of the future for housing,” he says. “There is a general interest from buyers in reducing the carbon emissions associated with their housing. But they don’t have the technical understanding of what’s involved with achieving that. So a lot of our work has been on the education front as well.”

Quebec home raises the bar in high performance

One house that is setting a new standard is an extraordinary, LEED V4 Platinum certified home in Quebec, which was designed and built in 2019 by Emmanuel Cosgrove and Mike Reynolds , co-founders of EcoHome, a Quebec-based green building information resource for builders and renovators.

The home’s features include:

  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures (the house uses 60 per cent less water than conventional homes)
  • Environmentally friendly cork flooring
  • A quartz countertop made of reclaimed and recycled materials
  • High-performance mechanical systems for more efficient heating
  • A wood ceiling made from reclaimed sunken river wood
  • Formaldehyde-free kitchen cabinets
  • A high-performance heat recovery ventilation system

The 1,552-square-foot Edelweiss House was built for around $295,000 to show that, as Reynolds said at the time of the interview, you don’t have to “blow the bank” to have a high-performance house.

“A lot of times people want to talk about all the new technology, but a lot of time we just come back to the basic stuff,” Cosgrove adds.

Green solutions for home renos

People thinking of renovating their homes are looking for a lot of the same sustainability features being seen in new builds, says Cosgrove.

Especially now, as people are spending more time at home for work and play due to the coronavirus pandemic, many are looking to save on energy costs and improve the air quality in their home, Cosgrove says.

Consumers are focusing on energy-efficient appliances, high-efficiency windows, an air exchange system (Heat Recovery Ventilation/Energy Recovery Ventilation), and certification by a designated program.

“Us environmental folks talk about ‘triple bottom lines’,” he says. “The environment, social well-being and economic impact.”

According to the group’s research, the majority of Canadians are willing to pay more for green renovations.

Cosgrove adds: “With energy efficiency, it’s a win-win. Changing windows, concentrating on air tightness, insulating while renovating a kitchen, waterproofing a basement — these are all examples.”

In terms of better air quality in the home, Cosgrove says people are looking more at using materials that won’t “emit volatile organic compounds” or at built-in fresh air systems, which reduce allergens and asthma triggers.

If you’re looking to make your home more eco-friendly, start small, if need be, and build from there. It could be something as simple as buying a tube of caulking to better seal in air in the home, which might save you $100 in heating costs over the winter. That $5 investment in caulking could mean taking the $100 and buying a more energy-efficient showerhead, translating to another $100 savings per year on hot water.

The consultants at EcoHome offer training to builders, contractors, architects and consumers who are renovating their homes. These range from helping to steward LEED-certified buildings (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is an internationally recognized green building certification) to more minute recommendations for the individual home renovator.

”It’s so easy [to change lifestyle habits]. It comes down to every homeowner getting informed about choices that will not only save them money but also drop their climate footprint substantially,” Cosgrove says.

Before you begin major renovation work, consider speaking with your insurance professional to understand any implications for your home insurance. For example, ensure you have enough insurance to account for any additions that might increase the value of your property, or that you have enhanced coverage for solar panels used for residential purposes. Speaking with an agent can help you make informed decisions as you finalize your plans.

This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as legal or insurance advice.