Build for the future: New home at CottageClub is a net zero showcase

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Grandmother builds new home to be energy efficient with help from SAIT’s Green Building Technologies and Plaid Shirt Projects.

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Sustainability can mean different things to different people, but to 68-year-old Margaret Jenkins, it means doing everything she can to create a better future for her three grandchildren, Callum, 11, Sawyer, 6, and Nia, 3.

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“I’ve always had concern for the environment. It’s always been in the back of my mind,” says the recently retired Jenkins, a long-term educator in Alberta.

So, when the opportunity arose six years ago to begin planning a new build zero-carbon home — one with a smaller footprint, using sustainable materials and technologies that support energy efficiency and environmental protection, she jumped at the chance. The home is located 20 minutes from Cochrane on the shores of Ghost Lake in the community of CottageClub in Rocky View County. The innovative build is a partnership with Jenkins, community developer Lamont Land Development Inc., and SAIT Green Building Technologies. The goal was to create a zero carbon cottage.

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“Sustainability is the way of the future and no one really seemed to be doing anything, especially when it came to building homes. So, once I found CottageClub, I was even more determined to move in that direction,” says Jenkins.

The community of CottageClub has earned a name for itself as a leader on the sustainability front and the developer has placed technological innovation, cutting-edge building techniques and smaller, more sustainable home plans at the fore of its business plan. Architectural guidelines stress smaller footprints, high-performance building envelopes, improved energy efficiency and the implementation of renewable energy sources.

Margaret Jenkins's net zero home is under construction at CottageClub on Ghost Lake.
Margaret Jenkins’s net zero home is under construction at CottageClub on Ghost Lake. Photo by Christina Ryan /postmedia

“What we found when we started this project with Margaret is that we were quite a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to quality and smaller footprints. Calgarians are used to quite large homes and so are the builders, so this is new territory and a bit of a learning curve,” says Don Stengler, president and CEO of Lamont Land Development Inc., the developer behind the community.

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The developer, in conjunction with SAIT, has created more than 50 home plans from which homeowners can choose or modify. Homeowners can also design a home from scratch. Included in the price of every lot is 10 hours of planning time with the SAIT Green Building Technologies team. The team offers technical input into the development and application of green building systems, as well as identifying requirements for geothermal heating and cooling systems, exploring the home’s orientation to maximize passive solar and solar photovoltaic options and assisting with eco-friendly material selections.

Jenkins worked hand in hand with the SAIT team to create the most sustainable home possible within her budget. One of the goals was to keep the costs on par with a similar stick frame home. “It had to be affordable, both for me and to show others that this kind of building can be done without huge costs,” she says. It was important to Jenkins to be able to eventually use her home de ella as a teaching tool for others, essentially creating a prototype for what is possible.

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Jenkins carefully researched builders, realizing that many just didn’t have the expertise or the desire to build a small footprint zero carbon home. She finally found one that fit that bill — Plaid Shirt Projects — and has been thrilled with its expertise.

A custom-designed year-round home with zero embodied carbon, Jenkins’ new home is a two-storey loft-style cottage, featuring 600 square feet on the main floor with a pleasing exterior — a gable roof, deep overhangs, timber accents, board and batten detailing, lap siding and plenty of outdoor seating on a small, but modest deck with a view of the lake.

“On the surface it looks like any other home or cottage within the club, but underneath it’s a giant carbon storage mechanism that is designed to emit very little to no carbon in its construction and operation,” says Cory MacDermott, project co-ordinator with the Green Building Technologies research group and an adjunct instructor at SAIT.

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Many factors were taken into consideration in the planning stages: most importantly the home’s orientation was paramount and designed to embrace maximum benefits from passive solar gains. The bulk of the glazing is located on the south/southwest side of the building to optimize solar exposure. Living and common areas were also oriented in the south to take advantage of the natural light and ventilation and also the views of the lake.

MacDermott says the materials for the home were carefully chosen and are the “secret sauce” for carbon storage. The home’s backbone is wood, including the foundation (concrete accounts for seven to 14 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally), using a double wall technique. The insulation is comprised of cellulose. R values ​​hover at R40 and reach R60 in the roof. Most of the heating comes from passive solar with a boost from electric heat. Because the energy demand for heating is so low, the mechanical system was downsized and the home has no furnace.

Building began last year and is expected to wrap up later this year. When finished, the home will be available for educational tours. For more information, visit cottageclub.ca

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