From the outside it looks like any other house, although two solar panels on the roof suggest an energy-efficient interior, but Lyle and Debbie Simonson’s home in northwest Swift Current, built by Evolve Developments, is actually the first to be certified in western Canada for meeting the rigorous updated 2012 R-2000 energy performance standards for homes.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the house held Sept. 18, emcee Keith Hanson, President and CEO of Sun Ridge Residential Inc., a residential energy evaluation provider for Saskatchewan and an R-2000 delivery agent, noted, “This is a leading edge home in the world, not just in Canada or Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
“Talking to the homeowners, Lyle and Debbie Simonson, about their experience with Evolve Developments was absolutely amazing. There isn’t anything that these guys won’t tackle face-on, take the courses on, learn about, in order to make sure that they got the house of their dreams and one that was a leading house in Canada. And you can just see the passion as they speak about what they did here and what they accomplished with their wonderful goal.”
He added, “This is available for Canadians right now, and this home demonstrates that it is achievable.”
The impetus for R-2000 construction is conservation of natural resources, and it is fitting that Saskatchewan has taken a leading role because it has the largest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the country, according to Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment Go Green Fund Manager Dr. Geoffrey Waters.
“While most recent data indicates that we are seeing a decline in overall provincial emissions, residential emissions still account for nearly two million tonnes annually.”
Waters extended special thanks to Evolve Developments “for their leadership in providing Saskatchewan’s new home buyers with the option to use environmentally conscious designs, and for developing the knowledge and skills of the next generation of apprentice trade persons who will need to build our future homes to ever-evolving standards.”
MP for Cypress Hills-Grasslands and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, David Anderson, noted, “This is one of the most energy efficient homes in our country. That is something that we want Canada to be a leader in. Homes built to the 2012 R-2000 Standard will be 50 per cent more energy efficient than houses built to the 2005 R-2000 Standard, so for homeowners this means a clear savings on energy bills, it means a contribution to a cleaner environment.”
The R-2000 Standard, created in Canada in 1982, has profoundly changed the way every home is built and has pioneered new technologies, but the standard itself is an evolutionary process that continues to galvanize three levels of government, manufacturers and the construction industry in working towards a long-term “net zero” goal of no purchased energy for homes. To date, more than 14,000 homes have been certified by the Government of Canada, most recently the Simonsons' home.
“R-2000 was born in Regina,” said Ron Olson, President, Canadian Home Builders’ Association. “In 1977, the Saskatchewan Conservation House became the proving ground for super insulation, passive solar design and the first heat recovery system. Ultimately the house as a system was a process they were looking for. Energy efficiency initiatives in homes around the world have followed the R-2000 program.
“Many breakthroughs were made by builders trying to achieve the R-2000 standard,” explained Olson. “Many of these benefits can be seen in every new home built in Canada today. Much of this innovation came from builders; it also came from product manufacturers as well as from government-supported research and development."
The Simonsons’ home epitomizes the “house as a system” concept that has been the foundation for R-2000 construction since the concept was first developed.
Evolve Developments offers the EnergyStar standard in all its homes, but the Simonsons wanted to leave the smallest possible carbon footprint they could. Even they were amazed, however, when they learned their home was the first in western Canada to achieve the new 2012 R2000 standard.
“We do Energy Star homes as a standard,” said Steve Lacey, Evolve owner, “so this was not just my choice. It was Simonsons’ as well. They decided they really enjoyed the geothermal. Once they had the geothermal, because it’s an electricity-run system, they went with the solar panels to run a good percentage of the geothermal.
“We dealt with Solar Outpost [for the geothermal] and … they got looking into a few other features for the R-2000, and so without telling Lyle, I went ahead and did a couple of things so that I could surprise him at the end of the build.
“When they were taking possession, I kind of told Lyle that, just so you know, this is beyond Energy Star. He said, what do you mean? I said, I’ve been talking with FM Residential and we’ve upped it into an R-2000 program. And he said wow, that’s great news.”
Francis Belle, owner of FM Residential, explained, “One of our specialties is trying to build in passive solar design. The challenge today is to try to get to this R-2000 net zero house in the most cost-effective way.”
“We also have to realize that this house is going to be here a lot longer than the next four or five years. Ten years from now, or 20 years from now, what is the cost of energy going to be and how much more of an advantage is this house going to have? This house right now is probably running between 40 and 50 percent of what it’s needing. It’s probably about halfway to net zero.”
“We weren’t expecting this house to meet these standards,” said Lyle Simonson. "That was not the intention when we started. Our decision to go with the geothermal and eventually with the foam was something that we just felt we should do, and we were in a situation where we were going to do it, and it turned out to be a wonderful thing.”
Outside and inside, the Simonson home is as attractive as it is functional and energy efficient.
“It’s extremely comfortable, it’s easy to heat, it’s cool,” remarked Debbie Simonson. “The spray foam insulation makes it really quiet and almost dust free. You look where we live, so you’re going to have some dust, but it’s a very tightly built house and we’re very happy with [builders] Steve and Julie and all the sub-trades that they employed. They’ve done a great job and are all very conscious of the standards that are set for this new R-2000 home.”
Alan Thomarat, President and CEO of the Canadian Homebuilders Association of Saskatchewan, observed, “Our province, through the Canadian Homebuilders Association of Saskatchewan, has been punching above its weight for decades, working to build the first R-2000 homes in Canada for over 30 years, now renowned worldwide.”
Expressing his appreciation to Evolve Developments for “being an innovative contractor and looking to the future,” Mayor Jerrod Schafer added, “It’s forward-thinking homeowners like the Simonsons that are willing to invest and when they build their home they think about the impact on the environment and the footprint that they want to leave on planet Earth.”
While the Simonsons acknowledge that achieving the 2012 R-2000 Standard added about 10 per cent to the cost of their home, they considered it a long-term investment.
“The geothermal, the insulation, the solar are all added expenses, and we just looked at it and said, this is a long term thing,” said Lyle. “The payback is not going to be in two years or five years; it might be 10 or 15, but it’s something that we could do."
R-2000 builders are trained in R-2000 building techniques and licensed by the Government of Canada, and each R-2000 home is evaluated, inspected and tested by a government-licensed energy advisor before, during and after construction.
“When you realize how important [2012 R-2000 Standard] is for the government and the trades, and the builders associations and building standards in general, then it’s pretty impressive. We’re pretty honoured.”
The benefits of the home’s spray-foam insulation and triple-pane windows make every day and every room consistently comfortable and quiet, regardless of the season, weather or time of day.
“We’ll get up in the morning when it’s +3° to +5° outside and it’s only dropped a degree in the house, so it’s amazing, said Lyle. “The windows, the insulation, it’s just made a big difference. And the noise level, it’s amazing. We still hear when they’re hammering on the roof next door, but it isn’t something that’s all that disruptive.”
He added, “We were sitting there having supper one night and the lot to the north of us had been surveyed and we’d seen the track-hoe sitting there in the afternoon. We walked out of our house after supper and half the basement was dug and we never even heard it.”
The Simonsons encourage anyone who is building or renovating to consider making improvements that conserve resources.
“Everybody that’s building a home, you’ve got to kind of have a look at what your situation is. Can you afford that now to have a long-term gain in the future? As far as saying it’s good or we like it, absolutely. If you can do it, do it.”
He added, “We’re hoping that all three levels of government will continue with their support for these programs so that these types of features can be offered to anyone who wants to build.”
Their home has an EnerGuide® rating of 91, meaning little or no purchased energy required, and is constructed with building products and materials selected to maximize indoor air quality, with judicious material usage and recycling to reduce construction waste. The rating for a regular house built to regular Canadian Building Code standards is 65 to 72, and the rating for an EnergyStar house is 80 to 90.
Features of the Simonsons’ house include:
- High-performance insulation, with R-10 spray-foam insulation under the foundation’s slab; R-28 spray-foam in the basement walls; R-28 spray-foam above grade walls; R-60 spray-foam and loose fill insulation in the attic
- Photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, with a 3.45 kilowatt grid-tied system
- Ground source heat pump
- In-floor heating
- Heat Recovery Ventilator
- Tankless condensing water heater
- High-efficiency triple-glazed, Low-E argon windows
- Dual flush toilets
- Energy Star® qualified lighting
- Energy Star® qualified appliances
- Hardwood and ceramic tile flooring