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Rainbow home to showcase green building during Games

The 2010 Net Zero House part of employee housing inventory

At first glance the house high on the hill in the new Rainbow subdivision looks like all the others under construction on the busy site.

It's roughly the same size, has some similar design features and, once complete, it will be an employee- and price-restricted unit just like its neighbours on the street.

But this is no ordinary house. In fact, upon closer inspection, this is a wholly extraordinary home.

It is called the 2010 Net Zero House, designed to produce more energy than it uses. And during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, when the world is watching Whistler, the house will be a showcase for the green technology used throughout its construction.

"Everything that's gone into this house, we've chosen for a reason," said new homeowner Richard Wyne, who currently lives in a Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) condo.

Though he is not specifically involved in the construction of his new home, that job falling to local builder Bob Deeks of RDC Fine Homes, Wyne is intricately involved in this process, spending hours bringing companies to the table to participate in this unique project.

He is actively pursuing partnerships with various companies to use and showcase their green technologies, their premium services and products, in exchange for some deals to build the home. It is, he said, a collaboration of partners making this green dream come true.

Come 2010, before, during and after the Olympics, the home will be open for all to see.

"We are going to showcase their products and explain to Whistler, to B.C., to Canada, to the world, why their products or their services work so well to build this kind of home," said Wyne.

"My job is to work with our partners to make sure they get branding out of it."

Some of those partners are local companies such as Living Edge Design, Corona Excavations, Sea to Sky Fire Protection Services, Cardinal Concrete, RS Heating & Sheet Metal, Red Mechanical, Alpine West Systems and Alpine Lock & Safe. Others are well known brands like Kohler and Electrolux.

Some will be using the house as a hospitality and demonstration home to network with their clients during the Games.

In May 2010 Richard and Jennifer Wyne will finally move in.

In the meantime, however, it's full steam head for Deeks's crew on site at Rainbow.

Though the company has been honing its green building knowledge over the past decade, Deeks has never built a house like this - one that will produce the heat it will consume. And more. It has several features to help it meet this goal.

"The most important thing is your building envelope and that's what creates your energy efficiency," Deeks explained in his office this week.

"It's air leakage that results in your heat loss.

"Because you have so little ability to create heat energy, you need to retain as much of it as possible."

The outside walls in this home are more than eight inches deep, thicker than conventional walls. The insulating panels are filled with molded expanded polystyrene, all with the goal of creating a strong and secure building envelope.

Perhaps the most obvious green design feature of the home, to the untrained eye, is the slanted south-facing roof, created to support Photovoltaic panels.

This solar roof will create more energy in the warm summer months than the home uses. B.C. Hydro will then create a credit for the Wynes, which they can draw down in the winter.

If there's leftover credit, that will be swallowed by Hydro.

But one neighbouring homeowner may reap the benefits of this net zero house too.

RDC Fine Homes has installed a heated water line between two homes in the new Rainbow subdivision with the expectation that the net zero house will produce enough energy to heat the domestic hot water for the second residence.

That could save that second homeowner about $50 per month in hot water bills.

Another feature making the home more energy efficient are the concrete floors.

Deeks explained that concrete acts like a rock in the desert, retaining heat more so than other surfaces. As the sun heats up the home's floors over the course of the day, the concrete releases that heat slowly over time, like a rock in the desert that stays warm long after the sun goes down.

There is also a grey water heat recovery system in the home that sucks all heat out of all the hot water going down the drain and a state of the art heating and ventilation system.

Though it is not clear yet what the final building costs will be, the cost per square foot is expected to be higher than the nearby homes. Once that cost is finalized, it will become a price restricted WHA unit that will appreciate in value much more modestly than market housing.

The project would not have been possible, said Deeks, without the unique partnerships.

"It's been a great experience," he said, of building the 2,200 square foot, four-bedroom home.

"Everybody is very excited about it."

And, he added, this is the way of the future.

As the cost of energy rises, purchasers will become naturally savvier about their use of that energy and how to conserve it.

"We find that people are a lot more informed and a lot more interested (in green building)," he said.

To learn more about the project and to see its progress go to www.rdcfinehomes.com.




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