Passive solar homes a reality at Rainbow 

Design uses sunlight, insulation to cut energy costs


At the top of the Rainbow subdivision, just below the future Baxter Creek development, sit three partially built single-family homes on three small lots. In a neighbourhood that is very much still under construction they don't stick out, but from top to bottom they were designed to be different.

Constructed by RDC Fine Homes, these units will use significantly less power than other homes in the subdivision by employing passive solar construction techniques as well as high-end building materials and inventive design.

Not only will these houses require less energy to heat and cool, the design will also improve indoor air quality. The kicker? Thanks to some design innovations, they actually cost less to build than units across the road with similar square footage.

RDC president Bob Deeks explains how this is possible.

"The big thing (about passive solar) is about getting the majority of your glazing to the sun," he said, indicating the second floor sliding doors and windows that overlook Green Lake. "These windows were aligned so they get optimal sunlight during the winter months when the sun is at a low angle in the sky."

Using computer modeling, Deeks said the design also takes into account the sun's position during the summer. The sliding doors are recessed slightly to increase shade, and there is a four-foot overhang from the roof that keeps the sun off the windows when the sun is directly overhead.

In fact, the majority of windows in the unit are south facing, aside from one window in the kitchen to provide light and fresh air and another window off the laundry room to accommodate a clothesline to the backyard. Upstairs there are large dormer windows to provide light and large bedroom windows on the south facing side.

The energy savings will be significant, says Deeks. For example, he says a home that uses passive solar can immediately reduce their power demands by up to 30 per cent. By comparison, a home that aligns its windows to face north can see a 30 per cent increase.

Drying your clothes outside can also reduce power costs by up to 25 per cent if you do a lot of laundry.

Deeks says he has heard the rumour that clotheslines are against Whistler's bylaws, but says he has yet to come across that law in all his years of building and renovating homes. If there is such a thing, he says he would welcome the debate.

"That's not something I would imagine would ever get enforced in Whistler, even if it did exist. If it is on the books then we should be getting rid of it and encouraging more dry racks and lines," said Deeks.


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