Conrad's blog

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. 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


I made the first post to this website more than eight years ago. My initial vision was a type of clearinghouse for Edmonton-based green ideas, and looking back, that's what the website is full of.

At the height of my content production, the site was getting almost 10,000 unique views per month. It still gets over 3,000 uniques/month, and I think that is a testament to the quality and enduring value of the content.

My biggest accomplishment on the site was copiously documenting the building and design of our Mill Creek NetZero Home. Most of the information about the house, which is a state-of-the-art (2009) cold-climate building, is still entirely relevant.

This site will remain here as a resource for googlers and green info seekers.


Conrad Nobert

P.S. Thanks to Ken Hemmerling, who was one of the very few people to take me up on my "let's build a community resource" offer. His blog posts were interesting and topical.

City Council Reboots Bike Initiative

Edmonton's planned high-quality bike routes 

After the bike wars of 2012, Edmonton city council has decided to rethink and reboot their strategy. Following the strong leadership of new councillor Michael Walters, YEG has decided to focus resources on building excellent, family-friendly bike infrastructure where cycling rates are already high, the city's core neighbourhoods.

So administration released the above map last week. Except for the 51s Avenue route, which to me doesn't follow the "build it in dense areas where the demand is highest" rule, I love the routes that they've suggested (these routes aren't set in stone, as they are subject to a new, very thorough consultation process that leaves the exact route as an option for the community to decide).

I did see something missing in the Strathcona area though. While there is a really nice grid downtown, there are no north-south routes in Edmonton's busiest cycling neighbourhood. So I attended a meeting of our most responsive level of government yesterday, and I was delighted with the results.

My proposal is to add a north-south route in the counterflow bus lane that travels north, parallel to Calgary Trail. I blogged about the idea here, and these are the simple pictures that I showed the transportation committee:

Proposed two-way cycle track on the 104 Street counterflow bus lane 

Location of the proposed two-way cycle track, the 104 Street counterflow bus lane  

I was very happy when the committee put forward a motion for administration to look into north-south routes in the Strathcona neighbourhood. Overall, the councillors were thoughtful and intelligent (With the exception of the always-hilarious Councillor Catarina. I know that I shouldn't say anything if I don't have anything nice to say, but Catarina's rude, uninformed manner were an insult to his post yesterday). 

What's Next?

Council is on the right track with its idea of only building Holland-quality routes, and putting them where they will be appreciated. So what in in store for the next six months? First of all, these routes are not yet funded. This Fall, council will vote on a four-year capital budget that may or may not fund the routes. It is critical to Edmonton's future as a cycling city that all of the routes (perhaps with the 51 Avenue one being replaced by a north-south Strathcona route) be fully funded. Secondly, these routes need to remain high quality. We, the cycling community, cannot accept any but the most minor concessions to them being high quality routes. No more sharrows! 


There are two consultation processes going on right now, one each for the 83rd Avenue and 102 Avenue routes. Participate in either or both processes (83rd here, and 102 here), and stress the need for safe, comfortable, high quality routes. Also, contact your city councillor about funding these routes in the Fall. They will be under pressure to save money in the budget, but the comparitively (to other traffic infrastructure) modest outlay that they will require needs to be allocated. 

Edmonton's bicycle riders have waited many years to have some infrastructure available to us. We are many years behind cities like Calgary and Vancouver. It's time to get these routes funded, and to build them well. Council didn't disappoint me yesterday, and I expect even more of them when it comes time to finally fund these safe, family-friendly bike routes.

Amsterdamming Strathcona: ## and 85th Avenue contra-flow lanes

Strathcona Centre Community, if it were given the Amsterdam treatment. 

Edmonton is attempting to turn itself into a bike-friendly city. There have been a few bumps along the way, as some neighbourhoods fight the change by pushing back against city council. Furthermore, much of the bicycle infrastructure that is costing our councillors this political price is arguably of low quality. It does make things better, especially for existing cyclists, but much of it is not high-quality enough to entice a large number of people onto their bikes.

I believe that our current city council is willing to fund some great infrastructure, and I am proposing a strategy that will minimize the political cost if the funds are there. Along with keeping the high-quality infrastructure that is planned in the current transportation plan (including 83rd, 102, and 105 Avenues), we should make certain neighbourhoods "perfect" for bikes. That is, we should Amsterdam them, make them into places where people automatically bike because there are great spaces for cycling all around. Beginning with Strathcona Centre Community, this strategy would entice a critical mass of people onto their bikes, creating a virtuous cycle where more people on bikes equals more people on bikes. It would help to prove the value of high-quality, high-density cycling infrastructure, and lead the way for more neighbourhoods to get the treatment.

I am writing a multi-piece series on how Edmonton could "Amsterdam" Strathcona Centre neighbourhood at minimal political cost:

  1. Amsterdamming Neighbourhoods: An Edmonton Bike Infrastructure Strategy 
  2. Amsterdamming Strathcona: ## and 85th Avenue contra-flow lanes

Amsterdamming Strathcona: ## and 85th Avenue Contraflow Lanes

 This is a contraflow bike lane:


When a one-way street provides an inconvenience to a motor vehicle, a contraflow lane can eliminate it for cyclists. I think that providing someone on a bicycle an exclusive advantage over cars is an important piece of psychology that entices people onto their bikes. In Stratchona Centre Community, we have an opportunity to provide this convenience without losing a single car parking stall, and whilst providing no extra inconvenience to vehicles.

As an aside, I have railed against "just paint on roads" bike lanes before, so why am I in favour of contra-flow bike lanes in some situations? There are two answers. Firstly, if cars go slowly on a street (30 km/h or less), then cyclists can share the road with them safely and comfortably. On ## and 85th avenues, although the speed limit is a ludicrous 50 km/h, the conditions usually lead to vehicles driving quite slowly on them (I state this from extensive personal experience rather than hard data). Secondly, I consider these contra-flow lanes high-quality infrastructure because they offer people on bikes a special convenience that vehicles don't have (rather than just providing a redundant place for bikes on an already-safe strip of residential road, for example) .

Proposed contraflow bike lanes for ## and 85th avenues, between Gateway Boulevard and 109 street. 

Some time in Edmonton's past, city planners decided to make ## and 85 Avenues, just north of Whyte between Gateway Boulevard and 109 Street, one-way streets.  read more... »