Location, Location...

This is 84th Avenue. The street on the left is 99th street. The green arrow is pointing at the future location (tearing down in May) of the Mill Creek NetZero Home.

I have been learning about ecohouses for years now. One thing you discover early is that a great deal of them are built in the country. The people who value energy efficiency and green building often have an affinity for a more natural setting than a city like Edmonton provides.

The thing is, most often these people work elsewhere. In fact, I've never heard of a green home in the country that was within walking distance to any jobs (I guess it could exist on a farm).

So you build green, but you commute two hours a day in your dinosaur burner?

Walkable

So I concluded early on that a true ecohouse needs to be in a location that allows for the jettisonning of the car from one's life.

Enter the Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH). It will be in the community informally referred to as Mill Creek (it's actually in Old Strathcona, north of Whyte and East of 99th). And Mill Creek is the most walkable neighborhood in Edmonton.

Off the top of my head, I can count 20 restaurants and six cafes with walking distance of the MCNZH. Two grocery stores, a Crystal Glass, the best movie rental store in the city, a few barber shops, the best bread bakery in the city, and most every festival worth attending are all within distance of the humble foot. Never mind the amazing bus service and the access to the River Valley.

My family of four can and does live comfortably without a car in this neighborhood. And our quality of life is way higher than that of the mobs of minivan owners who flock to my part of town to bring their kids to all the great festivals that their sprawl-burbs don't have. If your neighborhood is worth living in, why are you constantly driving to (and through) and talking about mine?

Where you live is the most important factor in how green (and how happy) your life is. This NetZero home starts with its location.

(cross posted at raisingspaces.com)

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"If your neighborhood is worth living in, why are you constantly driving to (and through) and talking about mine?"

that is awesome conrad.

Thanks.

I am very glad to see you are making a full commitment to passive solar heating. To me it is by far the most elegant approach. Was rammed-earth ever considered as an alternative to concrete as your source of mass? To my understanding this would embody far less unsustainable energy and could be cheaper while supplying a softer feel underfoot.

Thanks for the comment.

My greatest source of eco-anxiety from this house is the amount of concrete that we're using. Concrete one of the most energy-intensive of human activities. In fact "cement plants account for 5 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide" (New York Times).

Our strategies for mitigating its impact are as follows:

  1. We're using concrete with 50% fly-ash content (fly-ash is the waste byproduct of coal combustion - it would otherwise be landfilled).
  2. We're using the concrete floors as a passive solar heat store, so they will help us capture 1000 kWh per year more energy.
  3. Concrete is extremely durable. We are building this house very well - I hope that it will last hundreds of years.
  4. We're not building a garage, avoiding the concrete that we would need to do so.
  5. We're going to purchase high-quality carbon credit to offset the emissions from the concrete.

As for rammed-earth, I've never heard of it being used for flooring. I thought it was only for walls. I'll look into it.

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