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One of the most interesting trends these days in the homebuilding industry is the growing popularity of net-zero homes.

“Net-zero homes produce as much clean energy as they consume. They are up to 80 per cent more energy efficient than typical new homes and use renewable energy systems to produce the remaining energy they need,” said Sonja Winkelmann, director of net-zero energy housing with the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA).

“Every part of the house works together to provide consistent temperatures throughout, prevent drafts and filter indoor air to reduce dust and allergens. The result is exceptional energy performance and the ultimate in comfort – a home at the forefront of sustainability. It all adds up to a better living experience.”

Winkelmann says market research was conducted before the CHBA created its program and its brand.

“What I like to tell people is that we’re just moving from that innovator market to the early adopter market.” – Sonja Winkelmann, Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA)

“It is a beginning number (of net-zero homes) that we’re going to see grow. The number of homes that went through our pilot program in the first year was 47 homes,” she said.

“From what I’ve heard, we’ll probably see in the next couple of years somewhere between 300 to 400 homes coming through.

“What I like to tell people is that we’re just moving from that innovator market to the early adopter market. These are the builders that are really fine-tuning net zero for the rest of the industry. As the industry leaders, they’re the ones having to struggle with all the barriers that currently exist to really bring these houses to fruition.

“We need to obviously train the trades on certain things. We need to be working with the building officials for the permits and approvals. We need to work with the utilities on how to connect these houses to the grid. There’s a lot of that stuff that the industry is currently working out. But the houses – from a technical standpoint – for the most part, we know how to do it. It’s just how do we now optimize it. We need to make them more affordable … so more people can afford to buy them, and it will continue to grow from there.”

According to CHBA, the benefits of net-zero homes include:

  • Utility bills will fall to an all-time low, and stay low all year round
  • They protect homeowners from future increases in energy prices
  • It’s more durable – with high performance, warm windows and better-insulated walls and roof
  • Advanced construction methods and materials – along with superior heating, cooling and ventilation equipment – means even temperatures throughout the house
  • A built-in filtered fresh air system reduces allergens and asthma triggers, such as dust, pollen and outdoor air pollution
  • Tightly built and well insulated, it’s quieter
  • Homeowners are doing their part to protect against climate change and preserve natural resources for future generations.