A new net zero energy duplex at Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) in the Cariboo is one of six demonstration projects by builders across Canada.
Zirnhelt Timber Frames near Williams Lake and five other companies are working with the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) to advance the net zero home industry.
For the new duplex’s ribbon-cutting ceremony held Monday, Oct. 3 at Sugar Cane, Sam and Damon Zirnhelt were joined by builders from Edmonton, Calgary, Vanderhoof, Saskatchewan and Ontario, and representatives from CHBAv, BC Hydro, local politicians and tradespeople.
“Four or five years ago there were a few of us that got together at a conference and started hashing out this idea of a demonstration project,” Sam said. ” This project is about doing affordable, replicable, zero energy in buildings that produce as much energy as they consume and adding in durability, comfort and enjoyment.”
The initiative includes four stages: planning, building, analyzing, and then sharing the knowledge gained by disseminating it across Canada in order to build capacity in the residential industry and bring the learnings to the mass market. All six net zero projects will be monitored over the next five years.
WLFN councillor Ann Louie said she was thankful Zirnhelt Timber Frames had constructed the new duplex.
“I think it is something that will benefit our community in the long run,” Louie said, noting the new homes were something she would love to own herself.
Derek Satnik, a technical advisor with CHBA, said the aim is to create a toolkit that other builders can use.
“We are very proud of what Sam is doing,” Satnik said.
Chris Williams, with Avalon Master Builders in Calgary, said his crew built a 16-unit stacked townhouse project in the south end of Calgary.
“It was a really fun project,” he said.
Williams said while the mortgage for a net zero home may go up by $100 a month the cost is balanced by a $100 savings a month on utilities.
Before the ribbon-cutting WLFN cultural coordinator David Archie smudged the entire house with a large eagle feather, followed by singing a Chiefs song.
“I’m very excited to have all of you here today to witness this step forward,” Archie said. “We all have a responsibility as two-legged human beings to take stock of how we live.”
Miles Kohan, president of CHBA, toured the duplex and asked lots of questions, he said.
“I was very impressed. This is not only an energy-efficient home but this is a really, really beautiful house,” Kohan said, noting the CHBA has been promoting energy-efficient homes for a long time.
“When the net zero program came about in 2014 what really amazed me was the willingness to not view other builders as competitors but to share information and technologies to advance the cause so that it is affordable. Not every builder in Canada is able to build to a net zero standard, but we are trying to have a voluntary program,” Kohan said.
Andy Oding, also with CHBA said heat pumps in the net zero houses will make a difference.
“If you ran the house off baseboard heaters you would pay $1 for energy and get a $1 worth of watts, but if you put $1 worth of energy into a heat pump you are going get $3 worth of energy from it.”
WLFN housing manager Samantha Dick said applications from community members have been submitted to rent the new duplex, which will have subsidized rents.
“We have a housing committee that will review the applications,” Dick said.
While in the region the visitors also toured Zirnhelt’s shop where the homes are prefabricated, toured two other net-zero-ready homes and met over dinner in the evening.