Sunday, September 28, 2008


Earlier this month Durham Custom Homes in Oshawa became the first builder in Canada to adopt the new GreenHouse™ building standard. The GreenHouse™ design combines the energy efficiency standards of ENERGY STAR® for New Homes with resource management, indoor air quality and water conservation. The result is a new generation of homes that will produce three tonnes fewer greenhouse gases, consume 30 percent less energy, and use 15 percent fewer raw materials than homes built to the Ontario Building Code.

What makes this particularly exciting is that Durham Custom Homes is not a new builder, but rather a respected family company has been building conventional houses for more than 50 years. More to the point, GreenHouse™ homes will not be offered as a buyer option, but rather all Durham Custom Homes will be built to this newest environmental standard, effectively raising the bar and making standard homes obsolete.

When asked why his company decided to take this bold move, General Manager Victor Fiume explained that it was all about the economics.

“We know that given unlimited resources we can build the most energy-efficient homes in the world, but no one could afford to buy them. The great thing about these homes is that they will be affordable to the vast majority of Ontarians. That’s what exciting about the program,” said Fiume.

“The other thing about these initiatives is that is we don’t talk about payback, because the payback is immediate,” he said. “For starters, the cost differential is very small and the utility savings, which are fairly large, which means it actually costs less to carry these homes.” As Fiume explained, the average energy saving for a 2,000 square foot home works out to about $ 100 a month. The additional cost of carrying the home is about $ 60 a month, so right from the day you move in you’re putting about $ 40 a month in your pocket.

In addition to the energy standards already in place for ENERGY STAR® for New Homes, the new GreenHouse™ standard focuses on five additional areas.

1. Natural Resource Management - Advanced framing techniques use less wood, which means the harvesting of fewer trees, while delivering greater insulation levels. Using engineered lumber products means that all parts of the tree are utilized, which reduces the dependence on older-growth forests.

2. Effective Use of Resources – Using demolition materials means less extraction of virgin materials while diverting used materials from landfill. The Greenhouse standard requires concrete with a minimum of 25 percent slag (or recycled) material, 60 percent recycled attic and wall insulation, 100 percent recycled carpet underlay, recycled paint and a minimum 25 percent recycled content for shingles. Overhead garage doors manufactured with 84 percent recycled material and all exterior doors have fiberglass rather than metal skins.

3. Water Conservation – With so much attention being focused on energy conservation to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we often forget that the processing and pumping of water is a major energy consumer. To reach the target of a 25 percent reduction in indoor water consumption, Greenhouses use on CSA Approved dual flush low-flow toilets, low flow showerheads and aerators and Energy Star dishwashers.

4. Indoor Air Quality - To reduce or eliminate indoor air contaminates and minimize the potential for mould growth, GreenHouse™ homes are equipped with a raft of special features including heat recovery ventilators, water resistant flooring and Energy Star rated fans in all washrooms. The foundations and windows are sealed to protect against leakage, while special ventilation features prevent carbon monoxide from entering the homes from the garage. The use of materials containing a minimum of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), minimizes the amount of gassing off.

5. Waste Diversion – In addition to using recycled materials for building, the construction of GreenHouse™ homes sends 25 percent less waste to landfill. Leftover materials such as land clearing debris, asphalt, concrete and masonry, metal, wood, general debris, glass, paper, plastics, gypsum, non-hazardous paint and paint cans, carpet and insulation are all placed in separate containers so that they can be recycled.

True environmental progress isn’t measured by what’s new – it’s measured by what becomes the standard; what people perceive as normal. The real genius of the GreenHouse™ model is that it has created a new standard, one that leaves anything less literally in the sawdust!


For more information about Canada’s first GreenHouse™, visit

For more information on ENERGY STAR® for New Homes or the EnerQuality Corporation visit


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