Integrating renewables and conservation measures in a net-zero energy low-rise residential subdivision

Housing accounts for 17 per cent of Canada’s secondary energy use and 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Growth in the housing stock has contributed to a net 14% increase in household energy use since 1990. The energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from this sector will continue to grow if the industry does not move to build homes substantially more efficient. Net-zero energy housing (NZEH) provides a means to accomplish these reductions.

The Canadian housing industry, though large, is highly fractured with thousands of homebuilders. Individual builders have limited capacity to pool resources and share the risk associated with research and development. For this reason, the vast majority of homebuilders rely on prescriptive packages from labelling programs such as R-2000 and Energy Star, and on the building code when designing the energy performance components of their homes. A small but growing fraction of homebuilders are now building near- and net-zero energy (NZE) housing. They want to know which technologies will have the highest impact in reducing the first cost of NZE homes, and how best to integrate them. This will build the pathways required for NZE homes and communities to become more commonplace.

This project will demonstrate the feasibility of building NZEH communities in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Alberta. The idea of a NZE home is that it employs enhanced energy-efficiency design strategies to cost-effectively reduce energy needs, while supplementing with renewable energy technologies, with the result that the building produces at least as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. The project will also address the challenges in building to NZEH performance levels specific to production housing and to act as a platform for the broader adoption of NZEH across Canada.

In addition, this project will assess and resolve challenges in relation to site planning, construction, equipment, grid connections, cost, trade capability, warranty, reliability, sales, marketing, and homebuyer information/education. Owens Corning has assembled a team of experts in the fields of building technology, building science, solar technology, and energy efficiency, each with experience mentoring production builders to adopt voluntary energy efficiency/renewable energy measures including NZEH. Project insights will be disseminated to promote and facilitate the construction of other NZEH communities.

This project could lead to housing market transformation and widespread adoption of NZEH. The outcome of this project will be a guideline for building NZEH communities in a production setting differentiated across five communities in four provinces. The market is differentiated provincially in response to provincial building regulation and locally as dictated by local site and builder and homebuyer preferences. A comprehensive guideline will give the production builder the guidance that would be required to undertake the construction of a NZEH community.

The success of this demonstration project will offer a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and dramatically improve existing housing technologies used today for code-built homes. Adoption of renewable technologies, advanced mechanical systems, and advanced envelope systems will significantly improve building practice and provide homeowners with a better built home and a healthier living environment and community.

Owens Coming Canada LP has recruited five builders across Canada to participate in building net-zero communities in the following provinces: Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The builders are Mattamy Calgary Ltd., Reid’s Heritage Homes, Minto Communities, Construction Voyer Inc. and Provident Developments Inc.

The following national supplier partners have been confirmed: Canadian Solar Industries, Jeld­ Wen Canada, Mitsubishi Electrical Services Canada, and Rheem Ltd. Leading-edge yet readily available products from each of these partners will be used in the project. The team will continue to seek more national supplier partners in other net-zero product categories.

The first net-zero house broke ground on September 29, 2014 in Guelph by Reid’s Heritage Homes. More information can be found here: The team expects other builders to begin construction by spring 2015.

Project partners are Construction Voyer, Mattamy Homes Limited, Minto Communities Inc., Provident Development Inc. and Reid’s Heritage Homes. For more information on Owens Corning’s Net Zero Housing Community Project, please visit

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