Chris Magwood has fostered a passion for building environmentally-friendly homes for nearly 16 years- Now he’s taking on the ultimate challenge: Building Canada’s greenest home.
With an extensive background in sustainable building, Mr. Magwood has done his research.
Between 1996 and 2004, working as a home builder and designer, Mr. Magwood was involved with 30 builds across the province, from Parry Sound to Eldorado to Norwood -- all involving straw bale wall systems.
His next project is planned for James Street in Peterborough.
But it’s going to take more than straw to dub his new build as Canada’s greenest home.
Along with his team, a group of students whose ages and work experience are varied, he’ll have to meet a set of standards set out by the Living Building Challenge. Part of getting the house fully certified under the challenge will mean building a home that achieves net zero energy, meaning the house will produce as much energy as it uses, and thusly reducing the environmental impact of the house.
The house, along with having solar panels to sell energy back to the grid, will have a solar thermal system to heat water; energy efficient-appliances; good insulation; air-tight, triple panelled windows; and mostly straw bale walls.
The inside of the home will also provide a healthy living space with high-standard air quality.
In addition to working as the lead instructor for Fleming College’s Sustainable Building Design and Construction program for seven years, Mr. Magwood has co-authored a few books on straw bale homes and lived in a straw bale home himself. He’s now the executive director for Endeavour, a not-for-profit sustainable building school -- the group taking on the greenest home challenge.
Mr. Magwood says students in program come from all walks of life. “We have a really wide range -- some are straight out of high school and some are contractors with 20 years of experience,” he says. “There are lots who have had a career and want to make a change.” Students are between 20 and 40 years of age.
“It’s pretty unique,” says Mr. Magwood.
The challenge will give students the chance to get involved in every aspect of creating a highly sustainable building, from working with natural building supplies like straw and clay to navigating state-of-the-art energy systems. The work will also involve students in the budgeting and systems commissioning aspects of the build.
According to Mr. Magwood, 70 per cent of the program is job site experience and 30 per cent is classroom modules.
The students, who will get a certificate in sustainable new construction, will have the opportunity to network with home designers and builders. Mr. Magwood says sustainable homes don’t usually look much different than any other house. “The main thing you notice is it’s warmer inside,” he says. “You might be surprised how normal it looks other than the solar panels on the roof. You can do this and have a reduced impact on the planet, a greater quality of life and it doesn’t really affect how it looks to the neighbours.”
A sustainable home is often a little more expensive than buying a home from your average home builder, he says.
“It’s a hard comparison,” he says, noting the home pays itself off. “You’re buying all your future energy use at the same time.”
He’s been taking note on everything that’s alrady been accomplished in the business.
“We know a lot about what other people have done,” he says.
“Quite a few homes have achieved net-zero energy. Lot’s of people have also reduced the impact of their house on the environment. We’re bringing the two together.”
Mr. Magwood says there’s one other home in Canada, in Victoria B.C., that’s tried to meet the Living Building Challenge. The house only achieved a partial certification. The program is five months long, beginning at the end of April and finishing at the end of August, when the house will go up for sale. The program can take on 15 students and there’s still room, says Mr. Magwood.
To learn more about the sustainable new construction program, visit http://www.endeavourcentre.org/
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