REMI Network: Net Zero Project is Building Industry Milestone

We have been proud to have been able to be involved in the Net Zero Housing Project from its initiation and now that the homes are starting to be completed, we are grateful for the positive responses to the results. Thank you REMI Network for the recognizing us in the article below:

Net zero project is building industry milestone

Canadian initiative sets out to prove energy efficiency is consumer-friendly and accessible

Thursday, September 17, 2015
Rebecca Melnyk

A calm, suburban neighbourhood in the south end of Guelph, Ontario, buzzes as people from various building organizations gather at 197 Goodwin Drive. They’re all standing around a new home that blends well into the Westminster Woods community aesthetic, but was built with a much different intention as the 33 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the back roof might indicate.

Unlike other net zero energy (NZE) homes that have been constructed across the country, this one, the first of 25 to be completed as part of a national demonstration project, uses consumer-friendly technology and products geared to the mainstream public.

“This shows a net zero home is not only possible, but also possible on the consumer scale where it can be available to everybody,” Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie said before a ribbon cutting ceremony. “The home doesn’t just demonstrate new and exciting technologies; it changes the way homes are actually built.”

Rather than viewing the project as a one-off, the builder, Reid’s Heritage Homes, used its standard construction plans in order to replicate the build in a production setting, as well as complete a home others can duplicate.

Reid Heritage Homes was selected to be part of the ecoENERGY Initiative (ecoEII) to build a total of five homes in Guelph. Other building companies—Minto, Mattamy Homes, Provident and Construction Voyer—will each build five NZE residences to be located in Ottawa, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Quebec, respectively. Each builder is working with a technical consultant. In this case, Reid’s Heritage Homes has been working alongside Building Knowledge. Upon overall project completion in 2016, the amount of NZE homes in Canada is expected to double.

Andy Goyda, Canadian builder lead and marketing development manager for Owens Corning Canada, a leader in the project, was also on hand to promote the technologies that make the net zero home healthier, affordable and comfortable. One key feature lies beneath the façade, in the form of the Owens Corning CodeBord air barrier system that helps achieve high levels of air tightness to meet net zero performance standards.

“Net zero starts with the envelope,” said Goyda. “If it isn’t super-insulated, we don’t go anywhere; if it is, everything falls into place.”

This “everything” extends to the installation of high-efficiency water heaters, air source heat pumps, triple-pane, low-e glass windows and market-ready renewables like solar PV and electrical storage capacity.

As for the air barrier system, which insulates the exterior of the building preventing thermal bridging from occurring and increasing wall insulation to R-38, a consequential reduction in condensation adds for more comfort and efficiency.

All of these efficient measures will be closely examined. Jennifer Weatherston, director of innovation for Reid’s Heritage Homes, says the home will be monitored for a two-year period as data is collected and analyzed. She also intends to observe how the technology influences owners.

“Do you take the energy device and throw it in the drawer after six months or do you keep learning and moving forward, changing behaviour?” Weatherston questions. “It will be interesting to see how people live in these homes.”

And with the first build set for listing on September 19, the homebuilders will also get a better feel for how many consumers are willing to pay a little more than the average home.

“Guelph is a greener area and more receptive to this type of thing and the location is ideal,” added Weatherston. “But, at the end of the day, what is going to sell these homes is the innovation, home comfort, the improved air quality and better design with the insulation.”

The project has come a long way since 2013 when the Natural Resources Canada first issued an announcement that it had $262 million to promote research and development in demo projects to improve energy efficiency across Canada. BuildABILITY, project manager and lead consultant for the ecoEII project, worked with Owens Corning Canada to develop a proposal that would take net zero to an affordable community production housing platform. And, Voila.

The remaining 24 homes will be complete by the end of 2016, while the initiative aims to leave an everlasting impression on the state of NZE. That’s not only in the residential sector, but other sectors as well.

Candice Luck, director of strategy and programs for buildABILITY, uses the analogy of “helping to build a road through uncharted land so that others can drive through effortlessly.”

“As electricity prices go up (and they are and they will) and as PV prices go down (and they have and they will) businesses and the public will increasingly adopt these measures,” adds Luck. “Our project promises to debug the adoption process so future measures can be adopted seamlessly.”

To view the article on the REMI site, visit here:

Fine Homebuilding: Canada Launches a Net-Zero Project

Michael Lio, President, speaks to Fine Home Building about the Net Zero Project buildABILITY has been working on with Owens Corning Canada.

Canada Launches a Net-Zero Project

Aug 03, 2015

In Canada, private and public interests are working on a common problem: How to build net-zero-energy housing that average homebuyers can afford.

Asked by officials in the government’s ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative for some new ideas on how to encourage energy-efficient building, a company called buildABILITY Corp. put together a program in which five separate builders were invited to tackle the net-zero problem in whatever way they chose. As a result, single-family homes and condominiums are going up in five cities in four provinces as builders work with their own consultants to produce affordable net-zero-energy houses in their respective markets.

Natural Resources Canada chipped in $2 million from the national $278 million ecoEnergy program. Owens Corning Canada provided insulation products for free, and builders themselves came up with in-kind contributions that equaled the government’s ante, says buildABILITY president Michael Lio. The net-zero houses, all of which must be completed by next March, will be sold privately after the government double-checks to make sure they really will produce as much energy as they use.

The larger goal of the Owens Corning Net Zero Housing Community Project is to help production builders figure out how net-zero building practices can become part of their regular repertoires.

“We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Lio said recently. “There have been lots of net-zero buildings that have been constructed both in the U.S. and in Canada, but there haven’t been many activities that focused on production builders, and even fewer on affordability. So at the heart of this project is to work with large production tract builders to bring them to net-zero so it’s more affordable for their customers, to simplify it and drop it into their assembly-line processes.”

Builders find common ground

Builders are working independently. There’s no central agency directing their work, and there’s no common script they have to follow. Even so, Lio says, builders have settled on very similar approaches. “The technologies are off the shelf,” he says, “very accessible.”

Some of the common building characteristics:

  • Grid-tied photovoltaic systems for on-site renewable energy, with arrays rated at about 10kw.
  • Exterior walls with R-values between 38 and 44. Wood-framed walls have cavity insulation of fiberglass batts and an exterior wrap of extruded polystyrene rigid insulation.
  • Airtightness, measured with a blower door, of 1.5 air changes per hour, or lower, at a pressure difference of 50 pascals.
  • Triple-paned windows.
  • Although some builders have chosen small-output furnaces, many others are using cold-climate air-source heat pumps.
  • Heat-pump water heaters.
  • Interior polyethylene vapor barriers.
  • Attics insulated with batts or blown in fiberglass to a range of R-50 to R-70.

Lio says the units have fairly small heating loads (most of the projects are located in Climate Zone 6). Half the 10kw output of the PV arrays are on average used for base electric loads, Lio says, with one quarter devoted to space heating and the balance to domestic hot water.

Builders will sell the houses at market rates, Lio says, but because of program restraints they won’t be allowed to make a profit on building components that contribute to net-zero operation.

Construction costs are similar

Projects are underway in Laval, Quebec; the Ottawa suburb of Kanata; Calgary, Alberta; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Guelph, Ontario, just to the west of Toronto. Lio says land prices vary widely, but construction costs are similar across the country. These houses range from one-bedroom condos to single-family houses of about 2000 sq. ft. in the $500,000 price range.

The incremental cost of getting to net-zero on a single-family home is looking like $60,000 to $80,000, Lio says, a 12% to 16% premium over the cost of a conventional house. Lio says it’s too soon to know whether Canadian homebuyers will be willing to pay it.

“I think that as a full-on market initiative, we’re really early,” Lio says. “I suspect there will be some homebuyers who have an eye on innovation, who want to be the very first to adopt a particular technology and will certainly buy these houses.

“We’ve seen dramatic shifts in the pricing on some of these systems, particularly on-site generation, and as some of these systems become even more affordable and builders start to adopt the technology in volume, then it would be appropriate to have a conversation about what the market would bear. Right now, it’s conjecture. Prices are high, numbers are low, and it’s really unfair to talk about would someone be willing to dish out $80,000.”

Building on a Canadian tradition

Canada has a long history of high-performance building and introduced its R-2000 program in the early 1980s. As Lio points out, standards typically become more demanding as time passes.

“The R-2000 is in many regards the springboard for these net-zero houses,” he says. “R-2000 is an energy standard, but it doesn’t include on-site generation. These net-zero houses not only demonstrate the new type of energy efficiency that’s embedded in the R-2000 standard but it takes that next leap and embeds on no-site renewables.

“That’s the real difference,” he adds. “It’s a continuum. We’ve been at it for a long time and we’ve made lot of mistakes along the way, but it’s pretty obvious that there’s this continuum and these programs that are voluntary eventually become the stuff of code minimums.”

To read the article on Fine Homebuilding, please visit:

Construction Voyer Groundbreaking event, from left to right:  Salvatore Ciarlo (Technical Services Manager, Owens Corning Canada), Paolo Galati (Councilor, City of Laval), Meli Stylianou (Manager, CanmetENERGY, Natural Resources Canada), René Voyer (Founding Member, Construction Voyer), Guy Ouellette (Député de Chomedey), Michael Lio (President, buildABILITY Corporation) Pascal Voyer (Co-Owner, Construction Voyer), Jean-Francois Voyer (Co-Owner, Construction Voyer)

Live stream of Construction Voyer’s net zero site:

Press Release: A Quebec First in Laval

Groundbreaking VIPs from left to right: Salvatore Ciarlo (Technical Services Manager, Owens Corning Canada), Paolo Galati (Councilor, City of Laval), Meli Stylianou (Manager, CanmetENERGY, Natural Resources Canada), René Voyer (Founding Member, Construction Voyer), Guy Ouellette (Député de Chomedey), Michael Lio (President, buildABILITY Corporation), Pascal Voyer (Co-Owner, Construction Voyer), Jean-Francois Voyer (Co-Owner, Construction Voyer)


A Quebec first in Laval

Construction Voyer building six net zero energy homes as part of Natural Resources Canada’s ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative’s national Net Zero Energy project

(June 22, 2015, Laval, QC) Lucky homeowners in Laval will soon be moving into new net zero energy homes. Today, Construction Voyer broke ground on six condos as part of a national program that will see a minimum of 25 net zero energy (NZE) homes built across Canada. NZE homes produce as much energy as they consume, on an annual basis.

Construction Voyer is the only Quebec-based homebuilder selected for the project, which is part of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)’s ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative (ecoEII). The condos, expected to be completed by March 2016, are being built in the Duvernay East neighbourhood of Laval, close to the Highway 25 bridge.

“Our Government is proud to invest in initiatives like the Net Zero Homes project that create high-quality jobs and further strengthen Canada’s reputation as a leader in energy innovation,” said the Honourable Greg Rickford, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. “We remain committed to supporting companies that find solutions to protect the environment and lower energy bills for Canadians.”

“Speaking on behalf of staff and management, Construction Voyer is thrilled to be participating in the NZE demonstration project,” said Jean-Francois Voyer, Co-Owner, Construction Voyer. “It is proving to be a terrific experience which is allowing us to display our expertise in building high quality homes, while always looking for ways to utilize cutting-edge technology.”

A number of features allow the condos to achieve the drastic reductions in energy consumption required to meet NZE standards, including innovative heat and cooling equipment, solar PV panels on the roof, and the innovative exterior insulation CodeBord® Air Barrier System from Owens Corning Canada.

“We are extremely proud to be working with a true leader and energy efficiency ambassador in the building construction industry in Quebec,” stated Salvatore Ciarlo, Technical Services Manager, Owens Corning Canada. “Coupled with all of our project partners, we look forward to making the net zero project in Quebec a huge success that will be the benchmark across Canada and North America.”

NRCan is providing $1.96 million in support for professional services required for the planning, design and construction of the houses. The balance, over $2 million, will come from Owens Corning Canada, participating builders and the building industry in the form of in-kind contributions to fund the construction of the homes. The project, managed by buildABILITY Corporation, includes five builders across Canada: Construction Voyer (Laval, Quebec); Mattamy Homes Limited (Calgary, Alberta); Reid’s Heritage Homes (Guelph, Ontario); Minto Communities (Ottawa, Ontario); and Provident Development Inc. (Halifax, Nova Scotia).

Media Contact:

Jean-François Voyer | Co-owner, Director of Business Development | Construction Voyer

(450) 963-8300 |

Note to Editor:

A live video stream of construction can be viewed here:

Construction Voyer, founded in 1973, has built over 6,000 residential units: single-family dwellings, condominiums and rental buildings. Although the company originally earned its reputation primarily in Laval and cities along the northern belt, in 1998 it began expanding its activities onto the island of Montreal. Recently, Construction Voyer has developed an expansion plan to extend activities into new territories.

Owens Corning Canada is part of Owens Corning, a US$5.2 billion company with 15,000 employees worldwide, including 654 in Canada. Owens Corning and its family of companies are a leading global producer of residential and commercial building materials, glass-fiber reinforcements, and engineered materials for composite systems. A Fortune® 500 company for 60 consecutive years, the company is committed to driving sustainability by delivering solutions, transforming markets, and enhancing lives. Owens Corning operates 4 plants in Canada, manufacturing PINK® insulation and other energy-saving products.

The ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative (ecoEII), announced in the 2011 Budget, is a $268 million program searching for long-term solutions to eliminate air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions from energy production. Eligible projects must be demonstration or research & development.

For more information about the ecoEII Net Zero project, please visit:

CBC Radio: What is a Net Zero Home and How Can it Help the Environment?

Blake Seeberger, Senior Vice President, Residential at Reid’s Heritage Homes talks about Net Zero homes, the cost/benefit of buying one, and how it is going to become the future of energy efficient homes on CBC Radio.

Listen to the segment here:

Press Release: First Groundbreaking in National Net Zero Housing Community Demonstration Project Managed by buildABILITY Corporation


Monday, September 29, 2014 – On site at the Groundbreaking event ceremony
From left to right, Andy Goyda (Market Development Manager, Owens Corning Canada), Salvatore Ciarlo (Technical Services Manager, Owens Corning Canada), Blake Seeberger, (Senior Vice-President, Residential, Reid’s Heritage Homes), Michael Lio (President, buildABILITY Corporation), Candice Luck (Director, Strategy & Programs, buildABILITY Corporation), and Ric McFadden (Vice President & General Manager, Building Materials, Owens Corning Canada)

Today, Reid’s Heritage Homes hosted the inaugural groundbreaking ceremony for a national net-zero energy homes (NZE) demonstration project. Present to mark the occasion was Harold Albrecht, Member of Parliament for Kitchener—Conestoga (Ontario), on behalf of the Honourable Greg Rickford, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. He was joined at the podium by City of Guelph Mayor, Karen Farbridge, executives from Reid’s Heritage Homes and representatives from Owens Corning Canada and The University of Guelph.

The project involves five Canadian production homebuilders constructing a total of 25 net-zero energy homes, for which buildABILITY Corporation is the project manager and lead consultant. The project is funded in part by the federal government’s ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative (ecoEII), along with contributions from each participating builder, industry suppliers and Owens Corning Canada.

 “Our government is proud to invest in programs like the ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative which create high-quality jobs and further strengthen Canada’s reputation as a worldwide leader in energy innovation,” said Mr. Albrecht. “We remain committed to supporting companies that are finding solutions to protect the environment and lower energy bills for all Canadians”.     

The project’s 25 homes, five from each builder, will significantly increase the total number of NZE homes found across the country, homes that over a year generate all of the energy they consume. While many people already agree that net zero is the future of the building industry, many current NZE homes are custom-built projects, using elaborate designs and expensive technologies and inputs, disconnected from the realities of affordability.

By focusing on affordability and market acceptance, the project’s production builders, have taken on the unique challenges associated with mainstreaming NZE practices. This project acts as a platform for the broader adoption of NZE across Canada. “The project’s builders and consultants and Owens Corning Canada are leaders in their markets, and should be commended for their initiative and enterprise,” said Michael Lio, President of buildABILITY.

“It is hugely rewarding as project managers to see the pieces coming together,” said Candice Luck, the Project Manager. buildABILITY initiated the project concept, and promoted its vision for better homes for Canadians to Owens Corning and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). The firm developed an innovative project structure by strategically picking five regional teams that include five of the largest production housing builders in five of the five most prominent production housing locations in the country each paired with a local housing consultant to provide day to day support.

buildABILITY has been choreographing this national project, including facilitating conversations with net zero experts across Canada, coordinating a national net zero design charrette, and securing project partners, bringing likeminded companies together.

Unlike other industries, innovations in housing do not seamlessly move through market transformation stages and it can take decades to adopt new building practices. “While most organizations work within the confines of one market transformation stage”, said Mr. Lio, “buildABILITY exists in the space between each stage, connecting, and integrating. Our focus is on the largest and typically the most expensive consumer product – the house. The company’s deep technical expertise and its understanding of the diffusion of innovation allow it to act as a change catalyst for organizations and for the housing industry as a whole.”

“We are very pleased with the announcement of the groundbreaking today. It has been an honour to work with the Reid’s Heritage Homes, Owens Corning Canada, and the other builders and consultants involved in this project. We are excited to see the finished homes, and to start to see the impact of this project on the marketplace.”

For more information on the net zero project, please visit

buildABILITY Corporation provides a variety of services – from training to publication development to consulting. With a focus on helping clients to adapt to change, buildABILITY inspires action by building knowledge, capacity, and abilities. Since 1983, members of the buildABILITY team have been involved in projects commissioned by various organizations including national and provincial governments, housing authorities, utilities, trade associations, builders, developers, and product manufacturers. buildABILITY builds momentum with companies ready to transform the industry, like these NZE builders and consultants who are changing the game on net zero. For more information on buildABILITY’s projects visit

Project Contact: Candice Luck | Director of Strategy and Programs | 416.961.3487|

The ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative (ecoEII), announced in the 2011 Budget, is a $268 million program searching for long-term solutions to eliminate air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions from energy production. Eligible projects must be demonstration or research & development.