‘Living building’ could be Canada’s greenest home

Architect estimates net-zero house will generate five times more energy than it uses

Western Investor
June 19, 2019

Arthur Lo president of Insightful Healthy Homes Inc
Arthur Lo, president of Insightful Healthy Homes Inc., in a house being built in Vancouver’s Southlands neighbourhood that could be the most energy-efficient in Canada  — Chung Chow

What is being hailed as possibly the greenest house ever built in Canada is nearing completion in Vancouver, and it’s blowing past the net-zero home program limits promoted by the federal government and residential building associations.

The house on West 42nd Avenue is a Living Building Challenge project – the only one in B.C. and one of only a handful in North America.

It will generate five to seven times the energy it needs to operate, estimates architect Jay Lin of Vancouver’s HCMA Architecture + Design, who is working on the project with builder Arthur Lo, an engineer and president of Insightful Healthy Homes Inc.

The Living Building Challenge, from the Seattle-based International Living Future Institute (ILFI), is the world’s most rigorous, proven performance standards for buildings. A key aspect is that the building is self-sustaining.

Only one other project in Vancouver, an addition to the VanDusen Botanical Garden, has attempted to meet the Living Building Challenge, but it failed to achieve registration. 

Two other projects, both on Vancouver Island, also fell short of the challenge, according to Michael Berrisford, editor-in-chief of Ecotone Publishing, the ILFI’s publications division.

The Insightful house, once completed, will be monitored to see if it qualifies as Canada’s first privately built Living Building Challenge house.

An energy-efficient house in North Vancouver built by Insightful received a Georgie Award from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of BC this year for best environmental initiative, but Lo said his Vancouver creation takes sustainable residential construction to a new level.

The house of more than 5,000 square feet in Vancouver’s Southlands neighbourhood easily surpasses the net-zero energy standards of Natural Resources Canada, which requires a home to use less energy than it produces, Lo said.

It is equipped with 36 rooftop photovoltaic solar panels, solar-heated water, heat-recovery ventilators and drain-water heat recovery systems. 

Frank O'Brien is the editor of Western Canada's biggest commercial real estate newspaper, Western Investor, as well as a contributing editor at West Coast Condominium, real estate contributor to Business in Vancouver and a regular media commentator on real estate investment.
Copyright © Western Investor

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