For all my efforts of trying to be as energy efficient as possible, there will always be naysayers on how construction of any new home impacts the environment, whether it’s the size or the choice of materials used. To these friendly challengers, let me clarify my objectives. This is not an attempt to be a Ghandi of the environment or about saving the world in a single effort. This is about changing our habits and choices. I want to prove that we can all begin to leave a smaller footprint on this planet without sacrificing our quality of life, no matter where you are on that scale.
We are consciously aware of the juxtaposition of building a luxury home and practice conservation at the same time. We know how large the house is, even if we will have 7 occupants in it. We are aware of the “embodied energy” that has gone to waste in the destruction of the house that sat on the property prior. But there’s the ideal, in which we all conserve to the best of our ability for the benefit of the environment, then there’s the reality in which those that are economically privledged will be unwilling to give up certain comforts. What we are out to prove is that even at this size of a house, great efficiencies are attainable using existing materials and technologies. After all, not all of us want to live in a straw bale house, having read The Three Little Pigs one too many times, right?
At the size we are building and for this segment of the market, affordability usually becomes secondary to investment. It is within the context of this market that are we trying to demonstrate that net-zero energy is achievable. There is no reason that someone commissioning a luxury home should be specifying any less in energy efficiency during their design stage, as affordability in itself is not as large a part of their equation. In the long term, the energy efficiency upgrades will pay for themselves faster than the life of the house. With the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed-In Tariff Program, this house is even more economically viable and is expected to have a simple payback within 10 years with positive cash flow within a 20 year mortgage.
So, to the naysayers, let’s just agree to disagree. We are simply taking a different path to efficiency and conservation. The reality is, until we are 6 feet under ground, we will always impact the environment. Could I help by building a smaller house? Sure, I suppose. All of us can live in a tent in the wilderness and hunt for our own food if the goal is a more extreme conservation. Perhaps each of us just needs to ask what contributions we can make, whatever station of life we are in.