My concern for the environment led me years ago to become acutely aware of the role that energy plays in our lives. The following quote sums it up nicely:
There is no substitute for energy. The whole edifice of modern society is built upon it…. It is not “just another commodity” but the precondition of all commodities, a basic factor equal with air, water and earth. E. F. Schumacher (1973)
Energy is something that we all take for granted. In its easily obtainable (ie. fossil fuel) forms, though, it is being depleted at blinding speeds.
So when we moved into our newly purchased 1954 raised bungalow in Edmonton seven years ago, I was determined to make it an efficient home. We did major renovations to it - replacing one of the furnaces, putting in all new windows, sealing the cracks and gaps in its outer shell, and covering the outside of the house with rigid foam insulation.
Our home was given a rating of 71 by an Energuide for Homes inspector. The Natural Resources Canada web site says that a rating between 66 and 74 is appropriate for "a typical new house".
So everything should have been OK, right? End of story? Not so much. I realized that typical new houses are very poorly built, and that our upgraded home still consumes a vast amount of energy.
How much energy?
For space and water heating alone, our home consumes about 150 GJ of energy per year. That's the equivalent energy of burning 140 pine trees each and every year (for 10" diameter trees - sources here and here).
For several reasons, including the environment and energy security, I don't feel good about living in a home that constantly requires such huge inputs.
An idea is born
So, I began to realize that in order to get to my happy place we would need to build from scratch. We would need to build a home that had energy efficiency and harvesting of solar energy as its primary design driver.
In the summer of 2005, the 92-year old house two doors down from us came up for sale. We bought it, and the Mill Creek NetZero Home project was born.
(cross posted at raisingspaces.com)