She's a Big'n








I remember viewing a home on the ecosolar home tour a few years back that had just been expanded to 3000 ft.² plus a full basement.  I walked away from that home shaking my head - can we really call 1000 ft.² of living space per person green?

The Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH) is now fully framed, and it's looking pretty big on the streetscape.  We built a pretty big house, and I wanted to document some of the considerations that went into the decisions we made.

The official square footage of the MCNZH is 2280 ft.² With a full basement, that's 3267 ft.² of living space.  For four people, that's definitely more space than we need. I am not a believer in the "techno-fix".  Technology will not save us from having to make changes to our lifestyle. We will have to scale it down considerably to start fixing the problems that we've caused.





 So, while I acknowledge that our new home will be luxurious by world standards, here are some of the mitigating factors for its size:

  • It's actually only 2064 ft.² of living space by conventional measurements. Because the walls are 16" thick, we lose 10" of space per wall versus a regular 2x6 wall.
  • Once it becomes legal to have suites in our neighbourhood, which should be in December 2008, two thirds of our basement will become a suite. This will increase the population density of the house by effectively making it two houses in one.
  • The home is being built to "flex" to our needs. Once the children leave, we will be able to quite easily turn the upstairs into a separate suite. This way, there will always be four or more people living on the main and second floors.
  • This house is a hedge against future uncertainty. I believe that we are going to have to move back to the multi-generational household at some point. Having more room will be better when the tough times hit.
  • After much deliberation, we decided to add a loft - essentially a half-story - to the home. What put me over the edge in favour of the space was the heat-loss computer modelling that I did. It showed that the extra 306 ft.² from the loft would only cost us 400 kWh per year in heating energy. The flexibility that the extra space gives us was worth it.

I'm sure that we could have cut back on more space somewhere, but when you're spending your life savings on something it's tough. The incremental cost to add more square feet is so low once you're building already...I guess that's how everyone thinks, and that's how our houses got so big.

We are very excited to move into the MCNZH. It's going to be more space than we need, but we'll try to use it fully and wisely. 


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Thanks for posting your "green" house. You have an awesome view and sharing it is the best way to keep people in Edmonton open to initiatives like this. All the best to you and your Green House! -Rea

Yep, we agree, people will more than likely be forced to live in multi-generational households soon enough. It's better this way anyways, more stable and a richer environment for raising kids, and nicer for people who are a bit older to be involved in others lives, good all around for sure.

I'd love to talk with you about this sometime, looking to buy a home in the near future and doing something like what you're doing really appeals!

All the best,



Would you consider posting your floorplan?
Making efficient use of floorspace without creating a cramped feeling is something I'd like to learn.

Hi Ralph,

Do you mean a more comprehensive floor plan than this one?

I could email you the pdf of the plans if you like. I highly recommend the "Not So Big House" books too.


Shoot, I remember seeing that before now that you posted the link but couldn't find it (and didn't recall it) when I posted. That link is fine, and thanks for the book reference; I'll check it out too.

My wife and I just built a new home in Yellowknife, NT, that will be about EGH 86, with electricity use of 100 to 200 kWh/month and an annual heating bill of about $550 in Yellowknife where energy is over twice as expensive as in Edmonton. We've had monthly water consumption of 1 to 2 cubic metres/month since we moved in, thanks largely to composting toilets. Our house wasn't expensive though, because it's 900 square feet, including the basement. Size is the biggest factor in being green, in my mind. We built our house as small as the City would allow in their zoning bylaws. We may have built smaller if we could. And we plan to raise a family in the house. And it's still luxurious by world standards.

Excellent point Dwayne. And you're right, it really is luxurious by world standards.

Not that I'm one to talk, but one gentleman was recently asking me about how to build green. He and his wife are building a 3600 square foot home for the two of them. That's 5400 square feet of living space including the basement. Insanity.

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