Table Of Contents

The Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH) is a landmark cold-climate home. Situated in Canada's northernmost major city, Edmonton, Alberta,  it will produce as much or more energy than it consumes over the course of a year. Furthermore, it aims to be Western Canada's first LEED-Platinum certified residential building. 

The MCNZH is located at 9805 - 84th Avenue, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Construction began on July 30th, 2008.

The co-owner of the home, Conrad Nobert, is blogging about the many green features of the home. This is a table of contents of his blog entries. You can navigate using the table, or scroll down to view the posts in reverse chronological order.

  1. Introduction
  2. Philosophy/Motivation
    1. Affordability
  3. The most important aspects of a cold-climate NetZero home:
    1. Insulate and Seal
    2. Insolate and Add Mass
  4. Walkable Location
  5. Solar Awning
    1. Part 1
    2. Part 2
  6. Solar Hot Water
    1. Part 1
    2. Part 2
  7. Flex House
    1. Part 1
    2. Part 2
  8. Computer Simulation:
    1. Whole-house Heat Loss (HOT2000)
    2. Solar Hot Water System (WATSUN 2008)
  9. Deconstruction
    1. Reclaiming Maple Hardwood Floors
    2. Reclaiming Fir Floors
    3. Giving Stuff Away
    4. Scrap Metal Part 1 and Part 2
    5. Saving Concrete
    6. Reclaiming Cedar Siding
    7. Saving Lumber
    8. Saving Bricks
    9. Demolition
  10. Heating System
  11. Wood Heat
    1. Wood Burning Stove (part 1)
    2. Wood Burning (part 2)
  12. Recycling Gluelam Beams
  13. Square Footage
  14. Insulated Basement Slab
  15. Foundation Walls
  16. Light Pipe
  17. Pipe Insulation
  18. Metal Roof
  19. Passive Solar Design
  20. Waste Reduction
  21. Heathy Home
  22. Media
    1. Part 1 (coverage from first open house)
    2. Part 2 (techlife article)
  23. FAQ
  24. Airtight
  25. Concrete Floor Finish
  26. Phantom Load
  27. Ventilation
  28. Water Usage
  29. Grey Water
  30. Window Coverings
  31. Reusing Doors
  32. Cold Room
  33. Financial Incentive
  34. Progress
    1. Part 1 - foundation, framing
    2. Part 2 - more framing, wood reuse
    3. Part 3 - windows, front porch posts
    4. Part 4 - roof, light pipe, plumbing
    5. Part 5 -  insulation, photovoltaics
    6. Part 6 - concrete floors, counter tops, drywall, wood burning stove
    7. Part 7 - stucco, hardwood, moving in
  35. Observations
    1. Part 1
    2. Part 2
    3. Part 3
  36. A Net Zero Energy Year
    1. Beginning
    2. Questions
    3. Assumptions
    4. Oct 18 - Dec 15, 2010
    5. Dec 15, 2010 - Jan 15, 2011
    6. Jan 16 - Jan 30, 2011
    7. Feb and Mar, 2011
    8. April, 2011

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It is nice to see that there is concern being shown towards the use of natural resources and attempts made at reclamation. There is still a long way to go in all these respects. It is quaint that a plank is reused within the framing of the new construction, however it must be stated that a picture is also presented with an earth-mover demolishing the building where all of the material ends up being trucked away, the small pile of reclamation in the shed is somewhat whimsical in comparison. There is a vast amount of material visible under the track-hoe which could have been reclaimed as a usable product.
In the seventies when much of the historic downtown of Edmonton was being demolished and housing very similar to yours was being replaced with new stick framed apartments I was involved in a unique recycling and reclamation effort. We constructed a house using over 70% reclaimed materials and the remainder of the lumber for construction came from a local sawmill using wood from land within 10 miles of where the house is situated. Heated with a small wood furnace in the basement this 3 storey home is cozy in every room without the use of any fans or mechanical means, relying solely on the simple principal of convection. In all aspects this house remains far more efficient than 90% of housing being constructed today. In my mind High Tech houses rely far to much on new technologies, which have a tendency to be outdated within 2 years. They also require so many mechanical means to keep them functional and we all know what happens with this kind of gadgetry. Of note here is that huge amounts of embodied energy are harbored within all the components needed for much of these High Tech homes. We must realize that offsets (which much of net-zero housing is based on) may seem to help the future however in reality these offsets are destroying our environment right now which negatively affects our future. This discourse is not intended as a negative connotation towards your project just a reminder that we must strive to do more with less. We must incorporate more common sense into our daily lifestyle and less technology in order to positively affect our future.
These words come from 30 plus years of direct experience and certified education within many fields of construction and 28 years of owning a business that has provided conservative and sustainable products from it’s inception.

Hi Henry,

Thanks for you comments. A couple of points:

-when the house was demolished, the only reclaimable material consisted of two by fours and some floor joists. Everything else was painted wood trim, old lino, plaster, etc..
-that "whimsical" pile of stuff in the shed took me two months of sweat and toil to extract :)

I completely agree that we have a long way to go. I was hopeful that the carbon tax of the federal Liberals would be voted in last fall - it would have made labour cheaper (through an income tax cut) and materials more expensive (due to the carbon tax). A systemic change like that would make it more profitable to reclaim or simply renovate old material. Many other changes need to be made to encourage more reclamation/renovation/reuse and less "demolish and rebuild". They need to be system-wide, though. Otherwise, concerned people such as myself are strictly in donation mode (of time and energy) when doing the right thing.

I would love to hear more about your business. Care to share?

Conrad

In my experience it is not the government that will help to make a change, taxation is not the answer it just tends to mask the problem with funding. It is up to each individual within our society to create change, as an old saying goes "It is the multitude of small pebbles that create a Mountain". It is well overdue for the so called leaders within our industries to step forward and take a leading role in making a change and not continuously be forever concerned about monetary gains. Of interest to you and your readers is that most if not all the literature and “green” issues being propagated currently, whether published in books or through the media, were common knowledge throughout the 70’s. Climate change , greenhouse gases, peak oil, etc….. are issues I have been involved with for over three decades and dealt with on a personal level. I have gone through the pains of being called a cheap ba$#@rd through the 1980’s and 1990’s by the very people building your home, cheap for turning down the heat in my shop and using reclaimed materials extensively in my projects. and being told that construction practices I incorporated within several projects at the time were not possible or feasible for our climate.
The majority of work I do is cabinetry, furniture, mill-work and renovations all of which utilize 100% reclaimed and fully sustainable resources. I currently provide both commercial and residential cabinets made totally of solid wood acquired locally, no composite materials (plywood or particle board) are incorporated within this construction. All finishes are 100% natural with zero VOC’s. All this at pricing that is very competitive with the products available from retailers such as Home-Depot or Ikea. I volunteer extensive amounts of time in helping local people incorporate and establish practices within their lives and businesses that enhance TRUE sustainability. Over the years I have done many renovations both commercial and residential that utilize vast amounts of personally reclaimed material. The 2500sq. ft. shop I work out of was completely dismantled and reconstructed by myself last year. All materials for this space are recycled including the nails, screws, electrical and plumbing materials and even the paint. The only new material used is fire-rated wallboard and the electrical panel, this due to municipal code requirements. With a little effort it is possible to make a difference.

Fascinating stuff. I commend you for the hard work.

I do think though, that the system has to change. 95% of people are sleepwalking through this thing - they are not going to wake up unless circumstances force them. I also think that peak oil is going to do it. Not without some serious stress for everyone first, though.

Henry, This is probably not the correct forum to ask this but . . . I'd be interested in talking to you about some cabinets. I talked to a carpenter about getting cabinets built (using real wood) for my house and was given an estimate of over $6000. Something similar from Ikea is about $1500 - about one-quarter the cost. Your comment about being competitive certainly caught my eye and I'm certainly interested in buying from a local supplier. As I said - I'd be interested in talking to you.

Ken

Hello Conrad,

I have spent some time reading through all the great material on this site. I was wondering if you had to overcome any obstacles with the city of Edmonton and how you accomplished it.

Thanks
Sofi

I live in Calgary (which right now seems to be the less green friendly city) and keep hitting walls at every turn when I think of great ways to make my house more eco friendly. Many parts of our bylaws are set up in a way to discourage home owners from going green. It all makes me want to move out of the city (oh yes and commute). You would think that cutting our water usage by 50% across the city (saving the city money in the end for treatment) would actually fly.

Hi Sofi,

Everything that we have done so far has been 100% within the bylaw.

Where we will be breaking the bylaw is when we install the BRAC grey water system that will collect our shower water for flushing our toilets with. We are planning to go guerrilla and install it once the inspector is gone.

If the city takes issue, then I guess we'll have a conflict on our hands.

Conrad

Conrad,

Have you submitted this house to Fine Homebuilding as part of their annual Houses issue? I think it would be a good fit.

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