Cranbrook’s first completely net zero home is being built on 5th Ave S.
Bruce Murdoch of K-Country Homes is behind the project, aiming to provide an affordable family home that produces no emissions and meets step five of the BC Energy Step Code. Murdoch has been offering tours of the home to raise awareness of the options that are out there and how it can be done.
“This is going to be a certified net zero home, completely run on electricity. There’s no gas at all,” Murdoch explained. “For context, all three floors, at -26C, can be heated with the equivalent of four hair dryers. We already know the energy step codes for 2032, and this home exceeds that.”
Chris Zettel, Corporate Communications Officer for the City of Cranbrook confirmed that this would be considered the first full net-zero home in Cranbrook, providing the City’s building inspection team receives all the proper documentation validating the home meets the targets.
The house is a single family dwelling with a secondary suite below, providing enough space for two families, or anywhere from four to ten people.
The house uses several heat pumps, there is no furnace, and has several solar panels.
Heat pumps take air from the outside and heat or cool the home. There is also a drain water heat recovery unit, which recaptures at least 30 per cent of shower hot water and puts it back into the hot water tank.
Murdoch says they were able to eliminate all exhausts, with the exception of the range hoods, by using an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) system for other rooms, such as bathrooms. Even the clothes dryer is a heat pump dryer with no venting required.
The ranges in both kitchens are induction ranges, which Murdoch says are two to three times more efficient than a gas range.
“We will be monitoring the home over the next two years to measure its efficiency,” Murdoch explained. “The industry standards are always changing. I’ve been in this business for over 30 years and it’s a learning curve.”
The province of B.C. introduced the BC Energy Step Code in 2008. The code starts at step one, which is basic BC Building code, and each step above is enhances compliance, with step two being 10 per cent more efficient, step three being 20 per cent more efficient, step four being 40 per cent more efficient and step five being net zero ready.
New homes are expected to be progressively more efficient, to move toward net zero ready in 2032. The B.C. government has mandated that new homes are to be zero emissions by 2030. Existing buildings are expected to be net zero by 2050 throughout Canada. As Murdoch explained, there is no mandate for embodied carbon as of yet.
Murdoch’s new build is step five, meaning it is completely net zero and currently exceeds expectations.
“A net zero home is one that produces as much energy as it consumes. There are four areas of focus – the envelope (air tightness and high thermal value), mechanical systems (heating/cooling and hot water production) and appliances and power production (PV solar panels in most cases, in our area),” Murdoch explained.
“The exterior of the house is built with structural insulated panels, styrofoam with steel studs inside and out. The outside studs bear the weight of the roof and the inside studs bear the weight of the floors. Then there’s R-value, the basement is R-40, main floors are R-30, and the walls and the roof is R-45.”
R-value measures how well certain materials can keep heat from leaving or entering your home. The higher the R-value, the greater performance of the insulation.
Murdoch says that a typical wood-framed wall is closer to R-17.
The home also has triple-glazed windows.
“We still qualified as a net zero home with double glazed windows, but to make up the difference in the power that we use, we make it up with solar panels. By increasing from double glazed to triple glazed, I was able to reduce the number of solar panels we need,” Murdoch explained.
He says that the process to net zero involves many steps, starting from the initial design through to a final assessment. Murdoch hired energy advisors, who help guide the plans.
While upfront costs for these homes can be more expensive, the savings are clear, Murdoch says. There are also many rebates home owners can apply for when they are upgrading to energy efficient systems and products.
“In terms of monthly costs, you’re looking at around $100 to $125 per month at a three per cent interest rate on your mortgage. But a home such as this would be saving over $200 a month on energy costs,” Murdoch said. “It will also increase your sales value, a net zero label establishes a higher value.”
The benefits and features of a high performance building go further than cost-savings, he adds.
In a case study, Murdoch outlined that high performance buildings are more quiet, they have higher indoor air quality and comfortable indoor air, whether warm or cool.
He says these homes are healthier, filtering in fresh air, and that the buildings have a longer life expectancy. They protect against future fuel cost increases and having non-fossil fuel appliances means no major changes when you replace them. Plus, Murdoch says, it’s environmentally responsible.
“I hope this project inspires other home builders and owners,” Murdoch said. “It’s the way of the future for both new and existing homes.”
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