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What Makes Zero House – BiPVco Solar Modules

This is one in a series of blog posts about the materials we’ve chosen to build our Zero House project…

What are BiPVco Flextron solar modules? BiPVco specializes in the manufacturing of building integrated photovoltaics, that is, solar modules that are a part of the building, rather than “add-ons” that must be fastened over or onto the building.

Where are BiPVco Flextron solar modules used in Zero House? The standing seam metal roof on the south side of the building receives 32 modules that each produce 120 watts of power, for a total of 3,840 watts (3.84 kW).

How do BiPVco Flextron solar modules help achieve the Zero House goals? 

  • Zero net energy use – The solar energy harvested from the BiPVco modules over the course of a year will equal the amount of energy it takes to operate Zero House.
  • Zero carbon footprint – The modules use a flexible, CIGS thin-film technology that does not require the tempered glass or aluminum frames of typical modules, and combined with the elimination of mounting racks, the BiPVco modules have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than other solar modules (67 kgCO2e/m2 versus 242 kgCO2e/m2 for monocrystalline modules, according to the Inventory of Carbon and Energy V.2).
  • Zero waste – The flexible modules are highly resilient and require only a fraction of the packaging for glass-covered modules.

 

Other reasons for using BiPVco solar modules:

  • Durability – We don’t need to make any penetrations in the roof surface to mount the BiPVco modules, which is a huge advantage in terms of long-term durability of the roof. There is also no glass to break in case of hail or falling tree branches.
  • Affordability – The modules are comparable in price per watt to standard modules, but the savings on racking and mounting make them a very attractive option price-wise. Roof trusses do not need to be sized to take an extra load, as the modules are very light weight and don’t present any wind uplift issues.
  • Prefab – We can mount the modules to the roofing and ship them together to the building site, eliminating a separate shipping step and construction step on site.
  • Code compliance – BiPVco does not yet have CSA certification, and requires a field inspection.

Any drawbacks to using BiPVco solar modules?

  • The adhesive that binds the modules to the metal roofing seems very strong, but only time will tell how it holds up the Canadian climate.
BiPVco flextron modules at Zero House

Flextron spec sheet

What Makes Zero House – 475 High Performance Building Supply

This is one in a series of blog posts about the materials we’ve chosen to build our Zero House project…

What is 475 High Performance Building Supply?  475 High Performance Building Supply provides essential building knowledge and components to building professionals, focusing on materials that provide the best air tightness, ventilation and durability.

 

Where are 475 products used in Zero House?  There are 475 High Performance Building Supply products used throughout the Zero House building, including:

  • Mento 1000 house wrap – A 3-layer airtight, vapor-open housewrap that is an extremely strong weather resistive barrier (WRB). It provides superior weather protection and can cover most exterior building substrates. It has an actively vapor open, monolithic layer of TEEE film that is extremely waterproof – and outperforms perforated/stretched WRBs both in outward drying potential (38 perms) as well as airtightness.
  • Intello Plus – A “smart” vapor retarder that provides a first class air barrrier for thermal insulation in roofs, walls and floors. It gives structural systems a previously unachievable degree of protection from structural damage (from condensation), even under extreme climatic conditions, due to its intelligent vapor retarding properties.
  • Tescon Vanna – Air sealing tape is a long-lasting, robust solution for building airtightness. Used to seal the air control membranes over our prefab panels on the exterior and interior side.
  • Tescon Profil – Same great airsealing, weather resistance, and vapor profile as Tescon Vana, but with a 3-split release backing to make airtight connections and waterproof seals at corners quickly and easily.
  • Extoseal Encors – A watertight adhesive tape with high adhesion for creating window sills.
  • Roflex pipe gaskets – Creates durable and airtight seals around pipes, ducts and cables which pass through membranes, wood-based panels and other substrates.

How do 475 products help achieve the Zero House goals?

  • Zero net energy use – A building must be air-tight to be truly energy efficient, and the air-tightness products from 475 High Performance Building Supply help us to ensure that our building is free of costly leaks and that our air sealing will be durable and long-lasting.
  • Zero toxins – All Pro Clima tapes and membranes are free of solvents, VOCs and softeners

Other reasons for using 475 High Performance Building Supply products:

  • Waste – Most of the ProClima products are 100% recyclable
  • Workability – The membranes and tapes are very rugged, and don’t stretch or deform. They are much easier to install than other house wrap and vapor retarders, and it is easy to install without waves or folds. The tapes adhere extremely well and can be applied smoothly and accurately.
  • Moisture control – All the products have top ratings for moisture control in their intended locations, and together allow us to safely create a vapor permeable wall, roof and floor assembly.
  • Durability – The membranes and tapes are long-lasting, and the excellent moisture control characteristics help the building to last a long time in a wide variety of humidity and weather conditions.

Any drawbacks to using 475 High Performance Building Supply products:

  • 475 recently added a Canadian warehouse, so shipping times are greatly reduced. Products must be ordered directly from 475.
  • Many products do not have Canadian code compliance documentation, so even though they outperform conventional options, builders may have to use Alternative Compliance pathways to get code approval

Air sealing materials from 475 High Performance Building Supply are a key part of the high performance and energy efficiency of our projects at Endeavour. It is our hope that more builders will turn to these top-notch products in the move toward more energy efficient buildings.

What Makes Zero House – Inline Fiberglass Windows

This is one unlimited web hosting reviews about the materials we’ve chosen to build our Zero House project…

What are Inline Fiberglass windows? Inline is a Toronto-based manufacturer of high quality, energy efficient windows that use fiberglass frames, rather than the more typical vinyl or wooden frames.

Where are Inline Fiberglass products used in Zero House? All of our windows and doors are manufactured by Inline, including casement windows, fixed windows, sliding glass doors and entry door.

How do Inline Fiberglass products help achieve the Zero House goals? 

  • Zero net energy use – Inline makes very energy efficient windows with insulated fiberglass frames, triple glazing and great seals around opening windows. Inline received the highest energy efficiency rating in Canada from Energy Star. Inline worked with us to “tune” our glazing, so Zero House would have the best solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) on the south glazing, and the best energy efficiency on the north.
  • Zero carbon footprint – The manufacturing process for fiberglass window frames has a much lower carbon footprint than vinyl windows, and is about the same as aluminum clad wood frames.
  • Zero toxins – Fiberglass windows do not off gas like vinyl windows, and do not require the often-toxic paints used to protect wood windows.
Inline Fiberglass windows for Zero House net zero energy home

Inline triple pane fiberglass windows and sliding doors are part of our passive solar design

Other reasons for using Inline Fiberglass Windows:

  • Durability – Fiberglass frames have very little expansion and contraction as temperature conditions change, which helps glazing units to maintain their seals. The windows do not deteriorate in UV light and do not require painting or maintenance.
  • Affordability – Inline windows are very reasonably priced, especially for their level of performance. The cost for the windows is easily justified by the increase in energy efficiency and energy savings.
  • Workability – The exterior extensions on the windows allow us to match our siding depth and create a good seal around the windows. Inline’s clip installation system is easy to work with.
  • Code compliance – Inline windows meet all required CSA standards.

Any drawbacks to using Inline Windows?

  • We have used Inline Windows on projects since 2005, and have never had any quality issues or call-backs.

We will definitely be using Inline Windows on future projects.

Inline windows spec's

Zero House Goals – Zero Construction Waste

The making (and renovating) of buildings generates vast amounts of waste. The purchaser of a new home doesn’t typically see the mess that’s made, but it is huge… and largely unnecessary.

In the US, about 6.56 million tons of construction waste goes to landfill each year, about 11% of annual landfill volume (EPA-530-R-98-010), and the US National Association of Homebuilders study shows that the construction of just one typical 2,000 square foot home generates about 8,000 pounds of landfill waste (EPA-530-K-04-005).

While we’re not completely finished with Zero House yet, our volume of landfill waste is four bags, totalling about 18 pounds.

Zero House, zero waste construction

Close to the end of the project, and June shows off just three light bags of landfill!

We achieved this be focusing on several strategies.

  1. We made sure we used a lot of chemical-free, natural materials that are simple to re-use, recycle or compost. Lumber and plywood scraps were upcycled for other projects, and anything that wasn’t usable went to a disposal company that turns clean wood into pellet fuel. Materials like straw, cork and cellulose do not generate large quantities of offcuts, and what little remains is easy to compost. The Eco-4 fiberboard sheathing is accepted by wood pellet recyclers or can go back to the manufacturer. The ReWall sheathing we used is made from recycled drinking cartons, and can recycled back into more ReWall… however, we need to pay to ship it back to the manufacturer as the local recycling stream would not accept it in its ReWall form.
  2. We ensured we were not buying materials with a lot of packaging, and that any packaging is recyclable. Most of our small tally of landfill waste came from foam strips used between layers of hardwood flooring, and foam corners from windows and doors.
  3. We made sure our site crew was waste-conscious. It is possible to rack up a large volume of landfill waste from take-out food containers, fast food wrappers and other crew-related waste. Our gang this year was very conscious about keeping this to an absolute minimum.
  4. We tried to make separation streams as easy as possible on site, and undertook some on-site sorting before anything left site. Even with an actively engaged construction crew, the wrong item can end up in a bin, and there was always someone willing to make sure the sorting was done properly. On the job site, this means having multiple bins for various waste streams conveniently located on the site. It was definitely noticeable if the waste setup was not done well, then sorting and participation dropped off quickly.

Not every project is likely to put the time and effort into waste reduction that we have. But we don’t need every building to reduce to 0.002% of the average like we did to make a big change in the amount of material going to waste. We encourage all builders to aim to reduce by at least 50%, which should be easy to do and would make a real difference.

Zero House Goals – Zero Toxin Living Space

The toxicity of buildings is a subject that is not much discussed, but it is definitely one worth thinking about. Most homeowners seem to assume that some form of government regulation is at work to make sure the building products in their homes are not toxic, but this is not the case. In fact, there are really no standards or regulations applied to the toxicity or chemical content of building materials/products (except in the cases of well-documented pollutants like asbestos and lead).

The US Environmental Protection Agency claims that the indoor air of the average American home is five times more polluted than the outdoor air, and they rate breathing inside a building as one of the top five environmental risks to public health! People have to maintain their healthy lifestyle and not only in their home, but even outside. People should eat healthy and maybe even teach their kids about exercise and they can even take them on jogs on a joovy zoom ultralight jogging stroller. (EPA 402-K-93-007)

Our goal for Zero House was very simple: ensure that there are no toxins or chemicals of concern in any of the materials that would affect the indoor air of the building. This sounds simple and like it should be easy to do, but the information can be difficult to find and interpret, and a large number of common materials and products cannot be used once we start to examine what they contain.

A clean, non-toxic, healthy interior for Zero House!

A good place to start when seeking to eliminate toxins from the indoor environment is the Living Future Institute’s Red List Chemicals. This list includes a range of chemicals that have known and proven effects on humans. A building that can eliminate these toxins will have seriously improved health impacts for building occupants:

  • Alkyphenols / Asbestos / Bisphenol A (BPA) / Cadmium / Chlorinated polyethelyne (CPE) and chlorosulfonated polyethelyne (CSPE) / Chlorobenzene / Chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFCs) / Chloroprene (or neoprene) / Chromium VI / Formaldehyde / Halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) / Lead / Mercury / Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) / Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) / Phthalates / Polyvinyl chloride (PVC, CPVC, PVDC) / Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) / Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) / Wood treatments containing creosote, arsenic or pentachlorophenol

This list can be a lot to absorb, but practically speaking it means that we have to eliminate nearly all foam insulation materials, manufactured wood products, all vinyl windows, most brands of paint (even those that claim to be no-VOC), most typical caulking and adhesives, floor finishes… the list goes on. And this is only the Red List of the worst, most-proven health risks. If we take the “Precautionary Principle” and also eliminate chemicals that pose serious risks but do not yet have full scientific certainty regarding their negative effects, then the list of excluded materials gets even longer.

We can research this in several ways. We ask companies directly if their products are Red List free (this information can be found for some products on the Declare website). We also use the Pharos Building Product Library (a paid subscription service) to check chemical content. CARB and CARB2 compliant products also meet our criteria. All products also must have a Material Safety Datasheet (MSDS), and we will look at these carefully.

Take a relatively innocuous and widely used building material like drywall compound (drywall “mud”)… here’s a sample MSDS sheet:

MSDS sheet reveals several dangerous chemicals

We have to look up each chemical on the MSDS sheet individually, and find that all three of these have significant human health impacts, as does crystalline silica if inhaled. All of this in a product that is used in large quantities in our homes, and is sanded into a fine dust that can pervasive and difficult to clean completely.

The good news is: We can trade out materials with Red List and/or questionable chemical content for cleaner, healthier options almost everywhere in the building. Among the many examples of cleaner materials:

It takes a lot of effort to research and verify all the materials that go into a house, and while commercially-available healthy replacements can always be found, they often aren’t available through conventional building supply outlets. Keeping a building clean takes time, effort and coordination. But once we realize that building codes and government regulations are doing nothing to keep the insides of our buildings safe and healthy, the effort seems worthwhile.

What Makes Zero House – GRK Fasteners

This is one in a series of blog posts about the materials we’ve chosen to build our Zero House project…

What are GRK Fasteners?  GRK makes a range of screw fasteners, including several lines of structural screws. Normal screws can’t be used in many building applications because they do not have the shear strength or the pull strength to be used for structural purposes. GRK Fasteners are strong enough to be used throughout a building, and feature a recessed star drive that doesn’t strip. They also have a ZIP-TIP and cutting pockets so they drive quickly and don’t require pre-drilling.

 

Where are GRK Fasteners used in Zero House?  The prefabricated panels used to build Zero House rely on GRK fasteners in many locations:

  • The RSS (Rugged Structural Screws) hold the corners of the prefab panels together, providing a strong connection that draws the top and side plates together reliably and offer the shear strength and pull strength to keep the panels together.
  • RSS are also used to connect the D-rings that allow us to pick up the panels with a crane or forklift.
  • RSS are then used to connect each of the panelized elements of the building to the adjacent panels.
  • The R4 Multi-Purpose Framing Screws are used to hold the strapping on the exterior of the building that will be used to attach the cladding. Here, their strength allows us to go through the outer layer of fiberboard and still make a good connection to the framing.

How do GRK Fasteners help achieve the Zero House goals?

  • Zero net energy use – RSS screws enable us to attach the prefab panels together with an exterior strapping that eliminates all thermal bridging from the design

Other reasons for using GRK Fasteners:

  • Affordability – Though GRK Fasteners are more expensive than some other fasteners, we are able to use fewer of them.
  • Availability – Home Depot and other major retailers carry GRK Fasteners
  • Workability – GRK screws never strip, drive quickly and without pre-drilling, cutting down on labor time.
  • Prefabrication – GRK screws allow us to quickly assemble our prefabricated panels, and then lift them into place on the building site.
  • Code Compliance – GRK screws meet all code requirements for use in structural capacities.
  • Waste – The star drive system never strips, so we are able to re-use screws, especially those used attaching crane lifting straps.

Any drawbacks to using GRK Fasteners?

  • We haven’t experienced any issues at all with any of the GRK Fasteners we’ve used.

GRK Fasteners will definitely be used on further projects at Endeavour Centre.

GRK fasteners Zero House

What Makes Zero House – Applegate Cellulose Insulation

This is one in a series of blog posts about the materials we’ve chosen to build our Zero House project…

What is Applegate Cellulose Insulation?  Cellulose insulation is a high performance blown-in insulation for wall, roof and floor cavities that is made from recycled newsprint paper.

Where is Applegate Cellulose Insulation used in Zero House?  Most of our prefabricated wall panels and all of our prefabricated floor and roof panels use Applegate cellulose insulation to pack the cavities.

 

How does Applegate Cellulose Insulation help achieve the Zero House goals?

  • Zero carbon footprint – Applegate cellulose is made from recycled newsprint paper fibers, and that paper is about 50% carbon by weight. Rather than returning to the atmosphere as CO2 when the paper is burned or decomposes, it is now captured for long-term storage in the structure of our building.
  • Zero net energy use – Applegate cellulose has an R-value of 3.8 per inch, and adds R-62.7 to our floor system, R-38 to our walls and R-74 to our roof. The insulation is dense-packed into these cavities, ensuring that there are no gaps or voids in the insulation layer, which is key to high performance.
  • Zero toxins – Applegate cellulose is treated with borax as a fire retardant and insect deterrent. Though we wear respirators while applying the insulation, the material is not toxic and doesn’t contain the dangerous binders and fire retardants of most other insulation materials.

Other reasons  for using Applegate Cellulose Insulation:

  • Affordability – Cellulose is the lowest cost option for cavity insulation, so we get all the sustainability benefits and a lower cost.
  • Code Compliance – Cellulose insulation is fully code compliant.
  • Workability – Dense packing cellulose is a very straightforward process, and a team of two can insulate a whole building in a day or two.
  • Waste – Because cellulose is blown into cavities, there are no off-cuts and no waste. Any cellulose left on site can be sent to newsprint recycling.
  • Vapor permeability – Zero House wall and roof systems are vapor-open, meaning that moisture is able to transpire through the entire wall or roof. Cellulose has a very high perm rating and moisture storage capacity, so is ideal for vapor permeable assemblies.

Any drawbacks to using Applegate Cellulose Insulation?

  • Dense-packing equipment may be difficult for owner-builders to rent. Most building-supply stores will provide the equipment for loose-blowing the insulation into attic spaces, but this isn’t adequate for dense-packing into walls.

Applegate Cellulose Insulation is a material that will definitely be used on further projects at Endeavour Centre.

 

Zero House Goals – Zero Utility Costs & Net Zero Energy

Key among the goals for Zero House are a pair of interconnected ideas: zero utility costs for the homeowner and net zero energy use for the building over its lifespan.

This building is not alone in the pursuit of this goal. Building code authorities and governments across North America are beginning to set ambitious targets for Net Zero Energy buildings, including Ontario and California. Climate change is the motivation for these moves to create buildings that generate as much energy as they consume on an annual basis.

What are we trying to achieve?
There is a lot to “unpack” when thinking about these goals. If climate change is the problem to be solved, the source of energy for a building is just as important as its energy efficiency. A building with poor energy efficiency that is powered with 100% renewable/clean energy is less of a climate change problem than a more energy efficient building powered with carbon-intensive energy sources such as coal, oil or natural gas. However, if low or zero utility costs for the building owner is the issue, then energy efficiency and the price of the source energy become the key issues.

Zero House at Endeavour Centre

We want a zero carbon footprint
Chief among the goals for Zero House is to have little or no carbon footprint over the lifespan of the building. This means pursuing a couple of key strategies:

  • Rooftop solar electricity (3.84 kilowatts) from BiPVCo that generates as much clean, renewable energy as the building will consume
  • Creating an all-electric home that eliminates the use of any fossil fuels on site
  • Specifying Bullfrog Power to provide the additional electricity the building needs when its solar panels are not able to meet demands

We want very low operating costs
Homes that are affordable to operate should be the norm, but they aren’t. Zero House will be, thanks to these strategies:

  • Rooftop solar electricity (3.84 kilowatts) from BiPVCo that feeds excess energy into the grid via Ontario’s Net Metering program
  • Very high energy efficiency to minimize heating and cooling loads
  • Very high efficiency appliances and lighting

Using energy modelling to achieve our goals
By creating a computer energy model for Zero House, we are able to predict the amount of energy required for heating and cooling the building as well as the amount of energy that will be generated by the rooftop solar electricity generation. We can also simulate the energy use for appliances, lighting and hot water. Achieving net zero energy use is a matter of ensuring that the energy being generated by the rooftop solar is equal to the energy being used in the building.

Zero House net zero energy home

Eneergy model output for Zero House

Hey, those figures don’t match!
As you can see in the graph above, the 4,487 kilowatt hours generated by the rooftop solar more than covers the expected loads for heating (460 kilowatt hours) and cooling (311 kilowatt hours). In fact, it will only take about 18% of the output from the rooftop solar to supply all the heating and cooling needs for the building. The remaining loads in the graph represent average North American consumption figures for hot water (1,799 kWh), appliances (2,792 kWh) and lighting (718 kWh), and assumes a family of three in the home. If the occupants use energy at the rate of a typical European family, the building will fall well inside the net zero energy requirements. This means that we’ve done all we can to make the building as energy efficient as possible, including low flow shower heads, LED lighting and the most efficient appliances available. It will be up to the owner to use these in a reasonable manner to be truly net zero.

The future is net zero
We applaud the efforts of governments and organizations (such as the Net Zero Energy Coalition) who are promoting the next generation of buildings that will produce as much energy as they use. We think it’s equally important to achieve this goal in conjunction with low embodied carbon and low toxicity, to create Zero buildings that minimize all harm to occupants and the ecosystem.

What Makes Zero House – SonoClimat Eco4 Fiberboard

This is one in a series of blog posts about the materials we’ve chosen to build our Zero House project…

What is SonoClimat Eco4? SonoClimat is an insulating sheathing board made from 81% recycled waste wood fibers. It comes in 1/2-inch and 1-1/2-inch thicknesses.

Where is SonoClimat Eco4 used in Zero House? The 1-1/2-inch version is used as exterior sheathing on all of the prefabricated wall and roof panels for Zero House.

How does SonoClimat Eco4 help achieve the Zero House goals?

  • Zero carbon footprint – SonoClimat is made from recycled waste wood fibers, which are about 50% carbon by weight. Rather than returning to the atmosphere as CO2 when the wood fibers are burned or decompose, that carbon is now captured for long-term storage in the walls of our building.
  • Zero net energy use – SonoClimat Eco4 has an R-value of 4, and applied over the framing of our panels provides an important thermal break between the framing and the exterior atmosphere.
  • Zero toxins – The binder for SonoClimat is non-toxic and contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
    Most conventional buildings would use a foam insulation product in this position in the building, but the foam would have a high carbon footprint and many toxins we do not want to include in the building.

Other reasons for using SonoClimat Eco4:

  • Vapor permeability – Zero House wall and roof systems are vapor-open, meaning that moisture is able to transpire through the entire wall or roof. SonoClimat has a very high perm rating, so is ideal for exterior sheathing use with natural insulation materials like straw and cellulose.
  • Affordability – SonoClimat is about the same price as un-insulated exterior sheathing (OSB or plywood), but saves money and time because one product is both the structural and insulated sheathing. We get all the sustainability benefits without paying more.
  • Waste – Off cuts from SonoClimat are fully recyclable.
  • Code Compliance – SonoClimat products have good testing data available to support their use as structural sheathing.
  • Workability – SonoClimat can be cut with standard job site tools and fastened with conventional screw or nails. Cap nails (with an integrated washer) are the best option.

Any drawbacks to using SonoClimat Eco4?

  • Though the product is available through most building supply stores, it is usually a special order item and not regularly stocked.
  • Care must be taken when fastening the sheathing as it is easy to over-drive nails into the surface
  • The edges of the panels were not always even between the laminations

SonoClimat Eco4 is a material that will definitely be used on further projects at Endeavour Centre. For the type of prefabricated panels used on this building, it is an ideal option, combining low cost, easy workability, structural and insulative properties with vapor permeability.

SonoClimat

What Makes Zero House – ReWall EssentialBoard

This is one in a series of blog posts about the materials we’ve chosen to build our Zero House project…

What is ReWall EssentialBoard? ReWall is a sheathing board made from recycled, compressed drinking cartons. It can be used for interior and/or exterior sheathing over frame walls.

Where is ReWall used in Zero House? All of our prefabricated wall and roof panels use ReWall EssentialBoard as the interior sheathing.

 

How does ReWall help achieve the Zero House goals?

  • Zero carbon footprint – ReWall is made from 100% recycled paper fibers, and that paper fiber is about 50% carbon by weight. Rather than returning to the atmosphere when the paper is burned or decomposes, it is now captured for long-term storage in the walls of our building.
  • Zero net energy use – ReWall has an R-value of 1 for a 1/2-inch thick sheet, much better than other sheathing options like drywall or plywood.
  • Zero toxins – ReWall is made from 100% recycled drinking cartons, with no added glues or binders. Only food-grade materials go into the product, and there is no off gassing. EssentialBoard also scores a 10/10 on mold resistance.

Other reasons for using ReWall EssentialBoard:

  • Affordability – ReWall costs the same as conventional drywall and OSB sheathing, and much less than plywood, so we get all the sustainability benefits without paying more.
  • Code Compliance – ReWall products have good testing data available to support their use as structural sheathing.
  • Workability – ReWall can be cut with standard job site tools and fastened with conventional screws or nails.
  • Waste – ReWall can be fully recycled (though not all recycling centres will accept the material).

Any drawbacks to using EssentialBoard?

  • No local distribution means that shipments must be arranged direct from the factory in the US.
  • The sheets are “bendy” when being handled, so it can require two people to manage a sheet.
  • It was a bit difficult to make trim cuts close to the edge of the sheet as the saw would fray the material rather than making a clean cut.
  • There was a slight variation in thickness between sheets, which didn’t matter for our application but could present some difficulties if we were trying to use EssentialBoard as the finished sheathing and were mudding and taping the joints.

ReWall EssentialBoard is a material that will definitely be used on further projects at Endeavour Centre. Hopefully the product will start to receive wider distribution and will become available in more regions.

ReWall EssentialBoard

Zero House – Meet Our Team!

Every year, a wonderful and eclectic team comes together at Endeavour, and the team that is building Zero House is certainly that! Here is a quick snapshot of the students of Sustainable New Construction 2017:

 

 

Britta Anderson hails from the other side of the Great Lakes in Minneapolis MN. She is an artist, activist, youthworker, and herbalist. In 2014 she began to work in the field of conservation maintaining trails in the National forests of the US. After re-connecting with her love of the outdoors and doing hands on work she has been seeking ways to incorporate that into her life more intentionally. In 2015 she took a short building course at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. This sparked her interest in the building arts and alternative learning environments. That same year she started a group in Minneapolis called Tools Not Tools to teach Women/Trans/Femme folks basic skills in the use power tools. In 2016 she worked as crew leader for a youth conservation corps serving underprivileged youth in the Twin Cities area. During this time she also completed an apprenticeship in western herbalism. She aspires to integrate her love of plants, building, and people into a practice that can be shared with her home community. In her free time she enjoys plotting her life around the wild seasonal harvests of her bioregion, riding her motorcycle, camping, making food and plenty of daydreaming with friends.

 

Hello! My name is Olivia,  I have always had a great fascination with the building and design world. We are living in a time where almost anything is possible and it’s very exciting to witness and be a part of the active change.

I think it’s so important to live in a healthy & reliable home and incorporate more intention and beauty within that.

I grew up on Salt Spring Island where I was exposed to a no “norm” style of building. Very inspired by the unique practices of building led me to finding this course. My goal is to build and be a part of the design phase in a house of my own someday. I think there is nothing more rewarding than being able to live somewhere you have influenced and feel good about its impact as well.

 

Mateo has been fascinated by sustainable construction since working on a straw bale cottage in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec in 2009. He is stoked to be participating in the program in order to learn some of the cutting edge techniques employed by the Endeavour crew. Mateo has a particular fondness for tree houses, and is excited to bring his highly creative approach to the task of building a better world.

 

 

 

 

 

Michele Deluca drove with her friend Natasha all the way across the country in a little red car to participate in the Endeavour program. She grew up in Nelson, BC, surrounded by mountains, clear lakes, and good people. She graduated from the University of Victoria with a BSc in geography, and was following that path until she started reading about natural building and got SO excited she had to find out what it was all about! Michele followed her excitement to Endeavour, which has introduced her to so many amazing people and ways of thinking. She is looking forward to a lifelong journey of continually discovering and learning sustainable building and design practices. In her free time, she can usually be found hiking, camping, cooking, playing music or dumpster diving with Natasha.

 

Bill thought about building houses as a teenager – but it remained just a thought.

Decades later, Bill took the plunge. At The Endeavour Centre, Bill is not only learning the skills to build a Net Zero house from modules, he’s thrilled to learn design basics.

Since global warming has emerged as a prominent issue, Bill’s vision is to introduce Net Zero houses made from natural materials into the suburban market.

 

 

 

 

Hey I’m Ella, I’m from the West Coast of Canada. I love to dance, sing, travel, dress-up and be silly. I came to Sustainable Building out a love of working with my hands, living in alignment with nature and a desire for resilience in my own life and my community. After a few years growing organic veggies and selling them at the local market, I realized learning about renewable energy and green building was the next step for me. So far, Endeavour has been blowing my mind with all the current and innovative technologies we’re getting to experiment with. It is awesome to be exposed to the crossover of traditional carpentry and sustainable building and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

 

Natasha – coming soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave – coming soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June – coming soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kailee – coming soon!

Zero House Goals – Carbon Sequestration in Building Materials

The Zero House project has three key goals: zero net energy use, zero toxins and zero carbon footprint. This blog will look at the notion of zero carbon footprint, and we’ll explore how Zero House will in fact far surpass this goal through carbon sequestration in building materials.

The notion of the embodied carbon footprint of buildings has not received much attention in the past. Even now, it’s not a consideration within any of the major green building rating systems and is not a key goal in very many sustainable building projects. But if climate change is a concern, addressing the embodied carbon within building materials may be the most important issue a designer or builder can address.

During the harvesting, processing and manufacturing of building materials, there are always greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with these activities. Fuel is consumed, chemical processes unleashed and resources expended to create any building material. However, some materials have very high GHG emissions and others are very low. Typically, materials processed using a lot of heat and/or electrical energy will have higher embodied carbon than those with less intensive processing requirements. Good examples of this can be found in the open-source database called Inventory of Carbon and Energy Version 2.0, which provides amalgamated data for a wide range of building materials. Companies are also starting to produce Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) that are third party analyses of a range of environmental impacts of particular products, including embodied carbon.

 

Calculating a building’s carbon footprint involves figuring out the weight of each material and then applying the appropriate embodied carbon factor. This will result in a tally of all the carbon emissions associated with a building. By this reckoning, Zero House has an embodied carbon footprint of 6.991 metric tons of CO2-e (which includes carbon dioxide emissions and other types of emissions expressed as units of CO2) emissions for this 1,000 square foot (92.9 m2) building. This is about 75.25 kg of emissions per square meter. This compares very favourably with the same house built to typical code standards, which would emit 134.8 kg per square meter. That’s a 56 percent reduction, which alone would be worthy of notice.

However, there is another side to carbon emissions and buildings. If a building uses plant-based materials in its construction (wood, straw, hemp, cork, bamboo, mycelium and recycled fibres of all kinds), those materials are partially made of carbon that has been taken from atmospheric CO2 and converted by the plant into its cellular makeup. Usually, the carbon in plants is released back to the atmosphere when the plant decomposes (or burns). But if we contain that plant fibre in a building for a long time, we sequester that carbon in the building. It’s the simplest form of carbon capture and storage (CCS); the plants do all the work of pulling CO2 out of the air, and we put them into buildings for a long time.

 

Zero House uses a wide range of carbon sequestering materials. In fact, the shell of the house only uses three materials that do not sequester carbon. We can tally up the amount of carbon sequestered in materials by calculating the weight of each material, factoring in the average carbon content (the Phyllis database is a good source for this). Most plants contain 40-50% carbon by weight. When this carbon is released to the atmosphere as CO2, two oxygen molecules are added to each carbon molecule, so we multiply the weight of the carbon by 3.67 to find the weight of CO2 that is being sequestered.

embodied carbon of building materials

Calculation spreadsheet for the embodied carbon of Zero House

As the table shows, the Zero House sequesters a lot of carbon: 32.26 metric tons of CO2 are effectively bundled up in this building! This offsets the embodied carbon footprint and we end up with a net sequestration of 25.26 metric tons. While a lot of this sequestration is in wooden materials, about half of what’s sequestered is in the form of “waste” fibres (straw, recycled wood fiber, recycled drink cartons, recycled newsprint, cork) that would have otherwise cycled directly back into atmospheric CO2.

This approach has great potential to help the building industry fight climate change. If all residential buildings were to take this approach, the 200,000-ish houses we build in Canada every year (at an average size of about 2,200 square feet) we’d be sequestering around 1.1 million metric tons of CO2-e per year. Add other building types (commercial and industrial) into the mix, and the construction industry could lead Canada in carbon sequestration.

With a “negative” carbon footprint from inception, Zero House also takes a zero net energy approach that will ensure that it has a tiny amount of operational carbon footprint over its lifetime. We’ll examine that in our next look at the Zero House goals…

 

 

Mycofoam Insulation for Zero House

One of the most exciting developments in the field of sustainable building is the use of biological processes to literally grow building materials. While experiments in this realm abound, the folks at Ecovative is one of the first to become available. Currently Ecovative is focused on packaging materials and other non-construction uses for Mycofoam, but its use as a building material is supported by a number of ASTM tests that show it to be a feasible building insulation material (see data sheet below). We are very excited to be an early adopter of this technology!

This spring, we acquired some bags of Ecovative’s Grow-It-Yourself material to experiment with forming our own building insulation panels. We are happy with the results, and will be casting some larger panels to be used on our Zero House project.

 

We look forward to growing the larger sheets of Mycofoam for the Zero House project. And we definitely look forward to the day when Mycofoam is widely available to builders everywhere!

Zero House prefab wall panels

The Zero House is designed to have zero net energy use, zero carbon footprint and zero toxins. But it is also designed to be completely prefabricated and modular! It features prefab wall panels, floor panels and roof panels that can be fabricated off site and assembled quickly. Prefabrication allows many benefits, including controlled conditions for construction, ease of construction and affordability.

 

The Sustainable New Construction student team is currently assembling the wall panels for Zero House. We are exploring a number of wall systems:

  • Double stud with cellulose insulation

    – This wall type is the most conventional approach, featuring:

    • 2×4 frame construction
    • Cellulose insulation from Applegate Insulation. Cellulose insulation is made from recycled newsprint and offers excellent carbon sequestration and is non-toxic, while providing excellent thermal and moisture handling properties.
    • MSL SONOclimat ECO4 wood fiber board on the exterior side. Fiber board is made from recycled wood fibers, for excellent carbon sequestration and non-toxicity. The 1.5-inch boards (which come in 4×8 and 4×9 foot sizes) offer an R-value of 4. The product has a perm rating of 25.9 perms, meeting our requirements for a vapour-open wall assembly.
    • ReWall EssentialBoard on the interior side. EssentialBoard is made from 100% recycled beverage containers, for excellent carbon sequestration and non-toxicity. The 1/2-inch boards (which come in 4×8 and 4×9 foot sizes) and meet code requirements for structural sheathing.
    • This wall assembly is 12-inches thick and offers a total R-value of R-40.

 

  • Double stud with wool insulation

    – This wall type features:

    • 2×4 frame construction
    • Wool insulation from Living Rooms. Wool is not a common insulation in North America, but has a reasonable market share in the UK and Europe. Carbon sequestering, renewable and non-toxic, wool has an excellent R-value of 4 per inch and handles moisture well.
    • Cork sheathing board on the exterior side. Cork is a renewable resource that is carbon sequestering and non-toxic, and is impervious to moisture. It offers R-4 per inch, and we are using 2-inch thick sheets.
    • ReWall EssentialBoard on the interior side. EssentialBoard is made from 100% recycled beverage containers, for excellent carbon sequestration and non-toxicity. The 1/2-inch boards (which come in 4×8 and 4×9 foot sizes) and meet code requirements for structural sheathing.
    • This wall assembly is 12-inches thick and offers a total R-value of R-42.

 

  • Prefab straw bale with fiber board

    – This wall type is a new approach to prefabricated straw bale panels, and features:

    • 2×4 framing around panel
    • Straw bale insulation. Straw is a locally available resource, composed of the dry stalks from grain crops (wheat straw, in this case). Straw is a renewable resource with remarkable carbon sequestering capacity, a good insulation value and is non-toxic with excellent moisture storage capacity.
    • MSL SONOclimat ECO4 wood fiber board on the exterior side. Fiber board is made from recycled wood fibers, for excellent carbon sequestration and non-toxicity. The 1.5-inch boards (which come in 4×8 and 4×9 foot sizes) offer an R-value of 4. The product has a perm rating of 25.9 perms, meeting our requirements for a vapour-open wall assembly.
    • ReWall EssentialBoard on the interior side. EssentialBoard is made from 100% recycled beverage containers, for excellent carbon sequestration and non-toxicity. The 1/2-inch boards (which come in 4×8 and 4×9 foot sizes) and meet code requirements for structural sheathing.
    • A small amount of cellulose insulation from Applegate Insulation provides a tight fit between the straw and the sheathing materials. Cellulose insulation is made from recycled newsprint and offers excellent carbon sequestration and is non-toxic, while providing excellent thermal and moisture handling properties.
    • This wall assembly is 17-inches thick and offers a total R-value of R-39.

 

  • Prefab straw bale with Mycofoam sheathing

    – This wall type is a radically new approach to prefabricated straw bale panels, and features:

    • 2×4 framing around panel
    • Straw bale insulation. Straw is a locally available resource, composed of the dry stalks from grain crops (wheat straw, in this case). Straw is a renewable resource with remarkable carbon sequestering capacity, a good insulation value and is non-toxic with excellent moisture storage capacity.
    • Mycofoam insulation from Ecovative on the exterior side. Mycofoam is an insulation made by growing mycelium (the roots of mushrooms) in a mixture of agricultural waste fibers. This material is one of a number of exciting developments in the field of growing building materials. Using natural processes that happen with a minimum of inputs, this type of insulation offers extremely low ecosystem impacts, carbon sequestration and a great R-value of R-4 per inch. It is natural non-toxic and fire resistant.
    • Wall EssentialBoard on the interior side. EssentialBoard is made from 100% recycled beverage containers, for excellent carbon sequestration and non-toxicity. The 1/2-inch boards (which come in 4×8 and 4×9 foot sizes) and meet code requirements for structural sheathing.
    • This wall assembly is 17-inches thick and offer a total R-value of R-41.

The panels are currently under construction, and being stored until the whole building is ready for assembly. Stay tuned for more blog posts…

Zero House: Innovative Green Building

The Zero House innovative green building project is based on four simple concepts:

This joint project between The Endeavour Centre and Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science is being built for display at the EDITdx Expo for Design, Innovation and Technology in Toronto this fall, where show goers will be able to visit the home, meet the designers and builders and experience the Zero House innovative green building project for themselves.

This project is possible due to the support of a great many sponsors whose products and services make it possible to meet our high project goals.

Climate Champion Sponsors:

Climate Defender Sponsors:

Climate Friend Sponsors:

Each of the materials and products used in the Zero House have been carefully selected to meet our criteria for this project, and we’re appreciative of the manufacturers and distributors of innovative green building products for making a project like this possible.

Follow this blog as construction proceeds to find out more about these products and our use of them on this innovative project!

Zero House Sneak Peak

Zero House Project sets ambitious goals

Can we build homes with a zero carbon footprint, that use net zero energy and contain zero toxins?

The Sustainable New Construction class of 2017 is undertaking to answer that question with a resounding “Yes!” And they will be doing it in a completely modular, prefabricated form, at a realistic market cost.

Zero House is a demonstration project being undertaken by Endeavour Centre and Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science. The plan originated as SolarBLOCK by ECOstudio, a multi-unit design for urban infill sites. Zero House is a scaled version of a single module of the larger plan – one piece of a potentially larger development.

Zero House is designed to consume no more electricity than it produces in a year, and will use no fossil fuels. The building will sequester more carbon in its plant-based materials (which include wood, straw, mycelium, and recycled paper) than were emitted during material production, positioning it as an important solution to climate change. No materials inside Zero House will contain any questionable chemical content and the building will have an active ventilation system to provide the highest indoor air quality for occupants.

The project will be built in Peterborough in modular components, and then dismantled and rebuilt at the EDITdx Expo for Design, Innovation and Technology in Toronto this fall, where show goers will be able to visit the home, meet the designers and builders and experience Zero House for themselves.

Zero House

The class of 2017 gathers to start Zero House by making mycelium insulation samples.

The project is being sponsored by many progressive material and system manufacturers, and we will introduce them as their components are placed in the building.

We will keep an ongoing journal of the construction of this project, so keep watching here for updates and to follow our progress!

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