Feature - Building green 

There are a variety of motives behind Rod Nadeau’s Whistler EnviroHome

Before he dies, every man should build a house. The process, like writing a good autobiography, organizes personal history, clarifies dreams, confirms uniqueness, satisfies the soul.

— Plato

Rod Nadeau has built dozens of houses in Whistler over the last 25 years, but none have attempted to satisfy the soul the way the Whistler EnviroHome does.

The EnviroHome, a $3 million showhome in Nordic Estates, started as an initiative to demonstrate "green" building technology that’s available in B.C. As president of the local chapter of the Canadian Home Builders Association, Nadeau was keen to showcase "off the shelf" products that meet or exceed the R-2000 building standards for energy efficiency and the environment established by Natural Resources Canada.

He built an R-2000 house 20 years ago but "couldn’t sell it to save my life." He’s been building energy-efficient homes for years and stopped using caustic finishes that give off gases a long time ago because he and his crews didn’t like to work with those materials.

But last year Nadeau felt the timing was right to build another R-2000 home for the Whistler market, using all the latest materials and technologies.

"All other things being equal, people are becoming more concerned with health, and indoor air quality is a big part of that," he says.

Nadeau points to one study that found in Los Angeles the indoor air quality of some homes is five times worse than the outside air in a city known for its smog.

"We’ve essentially limited sources of indoor air pollution," he says of the house in Nordic. There is no carpet in the house, nor any formaldehyde-based insulation or pressed-board. The drywall, paints, stains, grouts and floor sealers were all chosen on the basis that they don’t produce off-gases.

The exterior walls were all built with insulating concrete forms – hollow foam blocks that are filled with concrete. They produce a virtually air-tight home, so a controlled ventilation system was incorporated into the building to bring fresh outdoor air to each room. An air-to-air heat exchanger warms the fresh air.

The house is attracting a lot of attention in building circles because of the way its built and because it’s a $3 million Whistler home. But what really motivated Nadeau to build this house at this time?

"I was (annoyed) the municipality was spending $1 million on a sustainability study when most of the information could have been downloaded from the Internet."

The S-word is bandied about frequently these days, in Whistler and elsewhere. Several local developers have used or pledged to use green building techniques in houses, including houses in the Stonebridge subdivision above Alta Lake Road. But there are no green building standards for homes in Whistler, at least not yet.

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