By Patrick Langston, Ottawa Citizen
Green homes, except for the odd rebel, just want to be one of the gang. At least, that seems to be the message from the Kermit-coloured corner at the Housing Design Awards held Oct. 22 by the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association.
This year, there were entries in the green tract, renovation (entire home) and development categories.
Corvinelli Homes’ 1,338-square-foot Napoli bungalow took the tract prize. It was the second year in a row the company has won the award.
“This is really nice,” said company president John Corvinelli after winning the trophy. “Everything I did in this house is standard in our homes. It shows you don’t have to be a tree-hugger to use less energy.”
And while the home stood out at the awards, its Century Stone elevation and covered front entrance would fit into any neighbourhood. Looking at it, you’d never guess it’s so efficient that the total monthly energy bill shouldn’t top $150.
That’s thanks to heavy insulation by Roofing411, a drain-water heat recovery system and other elements that boost it above Energy Star standards.
Yet features like an open-concept design, coffered ceilings in the living room, entranceway and bedroom and ceiling-high upper cabinets with crown moulding and valance lights in the kitchen make the home both functional and attractive.
“It costs maybe three-per-cent more to take the house from code to super-insulated,” says Corvinelli, who builds in outlying areas.
An “Ultimate Insulation” package, which boosts attic insulation, for example, to R63 from R50 and cuts those heating bills even further, is available for an extra $3,000.
The Napoli sells for $267,080 in Crysler and $320,070 in Russell.
“These are all tract homes,” says Corvinelli, referring to his full line of Energy Star dwellings, “but they look nice, I think.”
Looks are critical when it comes to green, agrees Matthew Sachs, general manager at Urbandale Construction. The company went up against Corvinelli with its Menlo Park III model.
“One of our guiding principles is trying to keep design first and foremost when we’re integrating green technologies,” says Sachs.
However, with an EnerGuide rating of 86, both an R-2000 label and Energy Star certification, and a claim that it uses 66-per-cent less energy than a home built just to code (the building code will be upgraded come 2012), the Menlo Park III is clearly green-savvy.
Amid all this eco-awareness, the three-car garage is a bit of a head-scratcher.
When it comes to design, the 3,290-square-foot home echoes Frank Lloyd Wright in its strongly linear elements, says Sachs. The home, part of Urbandale’s modern-themed Horizon line, features a shed rather than a gabled roof line, and the black mullioned windows underscore the linearity. Available in Kanata Lakes and elsewhere, it starts at $614,900.
Buyers don’t rank green among their top priorities, he adds. The community and look of a home are more important, while green is “the feel-good clincher.”
The third tract home contender was Minto’s spacious Gainsborough in east-end Avalon.
Starting at $453,000, it features four bedrooms, a stylish curved staircase, a generous kitchen with a breakfast nook and other gracious must-haves. At the same time, it’s Energy Star-rated with interesting green features, like an all-off switch system and SYNlawn, an artificial sod alternative that saves millions of litres in watering each year and eliminates the need for mowing and fertilizing.
Contenders like these prove that esthetics are important in a green home, says Chris Hewett, a professor of architectural technology at Algonquin College and a judge for this year’s Housing Design Awards.
Esthetics, not just green features, were a larger consideration in judges’ decisions this year than ever before, he says. “It was one of the recommendations we made last year. You don’t want to just throw money at technology and call (a home) green. It has to stand on its own against conventional homes.”
The green renovation prize went to an Echo Drive-area project that’s anything but conventional. A blocky modern home clad in airtight acrylic stucco, it started life as a modest brick bungalow. The existing home was renovated rather than replaced to avoid disruption of the building site.
Amsted Design-Build, a regular green winner at the annual awards, did the massive overhaul, picking up honours for custom bathroom and kitchen in the same home in the process.
A LEED Platinum candidate, the highest level in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building, the house is heavily insulated and features triple-glazed windows, including two storeys of glazing on the southwest wall to light the stair tower and provide natural illumination deep into the home.
A solar system heats water for domestic use and preheats water for home heating.
“We were building green houses back when we were granola crunchers and hippies. Now we’re cool,” a jubilant Steve Barkhouse, Amsted’s president, said at the awards. By giving green awards, he added, the association has raised the energy efficiency bar for builders and consumers alike.
Amsted’s sole competitor was RND Construction and co-submitter Chuck Mills Residential Design and Development. Their project saw a drab and drafty house transformed into an Energy Star-equivalent home with timber and Arts and Crafts elements in its new façade and a host of new interior features, including a spacious, stone-tile vestibule.
Minto took the green development award for its Stonefield Flats condominium project in Barrhaven’s Chapman Mills. It had no competitors. Registered as Canada’s largest LEED multi-family community, the flats, which start at $218,600, are close to walking and bike trails, public transit and other natural and commercial facilities.
Again, looking at their tri-coloured exteriors and gabled roofline and entranceways, you’d never guess they contain state-of-the-art insulation systems and other green features.
With trends like this, Hewett says green homes will in all likelihood eventually be absorbed into the main award categories. “Right now, green is still on the fringe, but it will become just the norm.”