t’s time to reconsider the archetypal home of the future. The real homes of tomorrow are available today — focusing less on the romanticized notion of cloud cities and flying cars, and more on the urgency of sustainability.

Rather than exploit, these homes have been designed, modelled and constructed to reduce household energy needs to a minimum. By including on-site renewable energy systems, they produce as much energy as they consume annually. The advantages are abundant: cleaner air, higher resale value, energy savings, and reduced GHG emissions.

Fittingly, the method has been dubbed the net-zero standard because when you generate as much electricity as you use, that’s exactly what you net — zero!

Reid’s Heritage Homes are leading the pack

Enthusiasts of the net-zero standard have brought on specialists to work with them. Amongst the pack, Reid’s Heritage Homes stands out. As one of Ontario’s leading builders for more than three decades, the group is committed to the net-zero standard. For Jennifer Weatherston, Director of Innovation at Reid’s Heritage Homes, the success of net-zero boils down to quality. She cites five key principles that constitute the net-zero standard:

➊ Advanced building enclosures — increased insulation from attic to basement, stringent air tightness, low VOC drywall.
➋ Home comfort systems — heating and cooling (right sizing the mechanicals to ensure comfort in the home on all levels), fresh air systems (energy recovery ventilators).
➌ Triple pane windows — reducing the cold drafty feeling and reducing noise from neighboring homes.
➍ Efficient electrical — appliances, LED lighting, air ventilation, USB outlets. High efficiency water solutions — drain water heat recovery systems, hybrid heat pump water heaters, low flow faucets, low flow toilets.
➎ Renewables — photovoltaic system sized to the needs of the home.
By adopting these principles, a net-zero home uses electricity and water more efficiently.

Setting the net-zero standard

While Weatherston wants net-zero to become widely adopted, she doesn’t want it done without consideration. “Net-zero standards are not about going in and building spaceships with controls that people cannot understand, and that require complicated maintenance,” she says. The idea that a building might be called net-zero when it doesn’t actually meet the standard positively frightens her. For Reid’s Heritage Homes, it’s about quality builds that are user friendly.

In Weatherston’s opinion, cutting corners only serves to hurt the industry and the net-zero standard, which is contingent on meticulous execution.

From a production perspective, being able to build net-zero homes consistently and to scale required Reid’s Heritage Homes to identify repeatable solutions. Aided by decades of building experience, Reid’s Heritage Homes was able to streamline the construction process. By maintaining the net-zero standard, Reid’s Heritage Homes is providing more Canadians better quality homes that meet the urgency of today’s sustainability needs.

As Weatherston clarifies, “When you start looking at larger scale communities, net-zero makes a lot of sense. You’re going from using 11,000 gigajoules of energy, for a 100-home community, down to 3,700 without even incorporating solar. There is a lot of good that can come out of this, for the environment, for the people living in the homes, and even people within the community who benefit from better air quality.”