As the population in Canada increases, so do the demands for energy. For this reason, Canada (provincially and nationwide) has invested a lot of money in green, renewable energy. Unfortunately, this investment has yet to positively affect the wallets of Ontarians, who continue to experience rising hydro rates. Amidst the most recent increase, consumers are more concerned than ever with how much energy their homes consume; however, not as many people are concerned with the amount of energy their homes actually generate. Over the last decade, a number of products have made it possible to make our homes more efficient by lowering the amount of energy it takes to complete tasks such as lighting, cooking and laundry. The question is: how do we take that to the next level? That’s where Net-Zero building comes into play.
Net Zero is a building practice that uses a multitude of renewable technologies to build homes that consume either less or an equal amount of energy than they produce on an annual basis. Net Zero’s history in Canada dates back to 2004’s Riverdale Net-Zero project in Edmonton. To date, it’s not exactly a “market friendly” practice due to issues around cost, feasibility and the lack of a community-sized demonstration necessary to gain widespread acceptance by builders and buyers.
One project is aiming to increase the amount Net-Zero housing nationwide. The ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative is working with five homebuilders across the country to build at least 25 Net Zero homes. Mattamy Homes, Minto, Provident, Reid’s Heritage Homes and Construction Voyer, along with a number of partners and consultants, are aiming to complete construction by 2016, according to the initiative’s website. The project’s aim is to double the number of Net-Zero homes in Canada. But could it become a standard? As I’ve mentioned before, consumers generally aren’t willing to pay more for green features – regardless of the long-term savings potential they offer. If builders can find a way to address the issues around affordability, Net Zero will become a no-brainer.