Tag Archives: grid tie

Affordable, Sustainable Homes: Eco-Sense and the Future of Green Building

Here is link to the Cascadia report on Eco-Sense.  One year Research Project funded by a grant from Vancity and the Real Estate Foundation.  Gord and Ann have over 425 hours into this…250 of which was volunteer…we missed our summer.

Affordable, Sustainable Homes: Eco-Sense and the Future of Green Building  (Written for the public.)

Also a link to the Technical Report  which served as the basis for the Cascadia report.  Written by Gord Baird, Christina Goodvin of Goodvin Desgins, and Ann Baird.  Lots of graphs, tables, and building science analysis for the earthen walls in four seasons (temperature, humidity, dew point),  full technical analysis of sustainable energy systems (solar PV, Solar Thermal, wood gassification), full policy report, full water analysis (grey water, rain water harvesting, composting toilets, water balance tables, and more).

See research page on blog  for all the individual reports (water, solar PV, building code, wall performance, and energy comparison reports)

What on Earth is a “Living Building”…reposted from BCSEA.org

By Ann Baird on October 21, 2010

The BCSEA has many friends and allies, whose work we support and promote. Two of these are Ann and Gord Baird, who walk the talk of sustainable living in the multi-generational cob home they have built in the Highlands, just west of Victoria. Its features include passive solar design, solar PV with grid tie, net zero electricity, energy and water conservation, and solar thermal hot water.

It also includes composting (no flush) toilets, rainwater harvesting, grey water re-use, a living roof, earthen floors, and natural finishes into their exceptionally beautiful, modern and affordable version of earthen architecture.

Their Eco-Sense home has been called “The Earth’s Greenest Modern House”.

So what is a Living Building? Ann writes. . .

A Living Building is a human created structure that functions as if it evolved in place. Because a Living Building is site, climate and occupant specific, there is no limit to creativity in the form and ingenuity of the integrated systems. The building actually participates within its eco-system where energy, water, and resources are shared for mutual benefit.

What a concept eh? But is it possible? You’re damn right it is! Three projects in North America have achieved this visionary ideal…and Eco-Sense, right here in the Highlands near Victoria, BC, is demonstrating one of these exciting possibilities.

“The Living Building Challenge (LBC) calls for a fundamental shift in how we conceive of the built environment,” said Jason F. McLennan, CEO of the International Living Building Institute. “These three projects…are quite simply the greenest buildings in the world.” See full press release PDF.

To achieve their ‘Living’ status, all program requirements must be met and proven through a full year of operation. Eco-Sense was the first completed project, the first to be audited, and the only family home so far. The LBC has taken off and now has over 70 projects registered globally.

A Living Building is rated in 6 areas or petals (for LBC version 1.3), which includes meeting 16 prerequisites. The six petals are: Site; Net Zero Energy; Net Zero Water; Materials; Healthy Indoor Quality; And Beauty & Inspiration. For LBC version 2.0 a seventh petal, Equity, has been added.

Ann and Gord Baird, the owner/builders for their Eco-Sense home achieved 4 of the 6 petals by meeting the requirements for 12 of the 16 prerequisites. Jason McLennan referred their home as “The Earth’s Greenest Modern House”. Eco-Sense has earned “partial” Living Building Certification or “petal recognition” for site, water, beauty & inspiration, and healthy indoor quality.

The Baird’s didn’t fully meet the net zero energy requirement. The family uses net zero electricity, selling its excess to BC Hydro, and it has 60 solar thermal hot water tubes, but they still use propane for cooking and wood gasification for winter heating. To meet the challenge, combustion or fossil fuels are simply not permitted.

The MATERIALS petal also proved to be problematic.
• Materials RED List: YES! They successfully avoided the toxic materials red list (the toughest of all prerequisites).
• Responsible Industry: NO! 100% of wood must be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), recycled, or milled on site. But alas, they only achieved 90%.
• Materials service radius: NO! Scored perfect…except for the imported Bamboo.
• Leadership in Construction Waste: NO! The three generation family of six produced one can of garbage every two weeks during the build…but alas, they did not fully document their achievements. They also gasified all the wood waste from all the recycled wood for winter heating. Combustion not allowed. (But they did compost all the sawdust.)

So, if a couple of passionate and driven people without engineering and architectural degrees can pull this off, just think what is possible if we collectively take our heads out of the box, unleash our individual creativity, and get to work employing NATURE as our lead architect…just think…

The Bairds’ passion and knowledge is expressed in their work consulting, building, advancing policy, researching, and in the hundreds of tours they have given through their home. They teach that if it isn’t affordable it isn’t sustainable, and they live their motto “Less life stuff…More life style!”

For more media links, click here.

Electricity Graphs (1 year ended Jan 31, 2010)

Ann’s notes for presentation to the BC Assessment Board

February 18, 2010

Notes for Property Assessment Review Panel

Area: 01 Jurisdiction: 361 Highlands (SD61) Roll: 15016.160

Re: 3295 Compton Road, Victoria, BC V9E 1C8

  • Comments to Doug Burkinshaw
    • I think he has done a great job trying to fairly assess the home.
    • It is wonderful that the earthen architectural style is properly valued
  • Brief introduction to Eco-Sense – see info sheet
    • Features (see printout)
    • Costs (see printout)
    • Living Building Challenge, $35K Vancity grant, Enormous publicity
    • Policy work with BCSEA, municipal and provincial governments
    • Met with MLA John Horgan yesterday – regular contact as he is the Energy critic for the BC Govt.
  • BC Assessment challenges for the Eco-Sense Home (a few areas but wish to spend most of our time discussing the energy systems within the appraisal). Brief discussion of some of the minor issues resulting from our assessment. Important to note: NO similar case studies or home exist for comparison
    • Thickness of mass wall system – Doug and I have worked through this issue to fairly assess our 2 foot thick mass wall system.
    • Ability to obtain a mortgage on this style of sustainable home
      • financing is possible but only at large interest rate premium
      • Does this reduce assessment of the home?
    • Home only has composting “Waterless” toilets.  There are two bathrooms but only one is plumbed for a flush toilet.  Does this reduce assessment of the home?  Should it?
  • Valuation of the sustainable energy (SE) systems. Easy to determine costs…difficult to assess their BC assessment value.

Read more HERE:  BC Assessment pres

Letter to BC Premier Gordon Campbell regarding Sustainable Energy Tax Disincentives

Dear Premier Campbell,

As the Olympics come to a close I would like to bring to your attention another global competition.  The race to be the GREENEST building.  The Living Building Challenge is a visionary building certification program well beyond LEED platinum.  With over 70 global projects registered and only four completed, the Eco-Sense Home in Victoria BC is leading the way.

Eco-Sense embodies the principals of the Living Building Challenge.  This multi-generation affordable near net zero family home incorporates the best of modern technologies into an innovative modern example of earthen architecture.  see www.eco-sense.ca

The Eco-Sense home has had over 100 media events including TV, magazines, radio, newspaper, documentaries, Royal BC Museum displays, and books.  Tours have included policy makers, politicians, engineers, government officials, architects, builders, climate scientists, community leaders, groups of bankers, groups of building officials and planners, as well as school groups and the public.

As you can imagine a project of this magnitude has encountered many policy barriers.  Ann and Gord Baird, through their achievements, have identified many barriers while working towards the solutions.

Energy Policy is at the forefront of the identified barriers and we would like to share what we have learned from the front line of actually walking the sustainability talk.  Below are the main barriers to Eco-Sense becoming the most sustainable code approved family home in North America.

  1. The BC Hydro Net metering program is very poor and is lagging behind.  Eco-Sense IS a NET PROVIDER of electricity to BC Hydro on an annual basis.  If BC Hydro had a better net metering program which paid the real cost of all the sustainable energy sold to the grid, many of the cost barriers to sustainable energy and fully net zero living would be overcome.  BC Hydro is WAY behind as they only pay 8.2 cents per kWhr.  Quite embarrassing for a province that wishes to lead the way towards sustainability.
    • better policy in this area would support a distributed grid, energy conservation, community pride, and local energy resiliency.
  2. Removal of all the current tax disincentives to solar PV. (Here are a few of them)
    • HST on solar technologies – sustainable energy should be exempt from HST
    • Electrical permit fees on entire solar installations – leads to very large permit fees for individuals installing solar systems
    • increase in municipal taxation because of property value increases due to BC Assessment of all future energy energy production
      • Eco-Sense pays an extra $400 per year in municipal taxes because we generate sustainable energy (works out to $10,000 over the 25 year life cycle of the system)
      • Our Sustainable energy systems comprise 21% of the total cost of our home.  (see PDF link below for complete cost breakdown of the Eco-Sense home)

We recently discussed this issue with the BC Assessment appeal board, the BC Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA), and our MLA; everyone agrees that this is wrong.  Solution involves changing the legislation with the BC Minister of Finance.

The climate science dictates that policy MUST encourage the people and industry to take BIG steps to move rapidly towards sustainability.  Most of the current GHG reduction policy involves encouraging baby step.

Ann and Gord Baird of Eco-Sense strongly encourage the Campbell Government to take bold steps forward on Energy and Taxation Policy to create the future we all desire, for our children, our citizens, our beautiful province and to showcase for the planet that BC is truly a leader.  Just think, BC could have the first certified “Living Building Project” in the World.

Please see this PDF of the features of our home.

We would also like to extend an invitation for a private tour of our home.


Ann and Gord Baird

Victoria, BC