A Green Home of Our Own - The Manitou Hills Project

My wife and I have had the pleasure of designing and building an extremely efficient and resilient, off-grid home that I hope will serve my family for my lifetime and more. I wanted to write about and share our project, and hopefully do my part to inspire others to build better homes. I am going to focus in this series of posts on the specifics of our project, with what we have done, how this fits into my understanding of best design principles, and some thoughts on what I've learned and what I might do differently if we were to do it all over again. It is necessary to get into the technical details, as it is these details that really determine the performance of a home.

My family and I live part of the time in Ottawa, Ontario, where both my wife and I have our work, for the federal government and local university respectively. Though I've always wanted to live in a rural and relatively wild setting, it would be impractical for the commutes to work and the kids' schools, as well as the isolation being too much for my wife to handle all of the time. So a compromise was born, to rent a reasonable place in the city, and make our 'real' home be out in the countryside, our full-time home for the summer, and a weekend retreat during the winter. We found a beautiful forested farm property nestled along a river only an hour's drive from the city, our own perfect spot. Soon after, we began working with our architect, Anthony Mach of Mach Design, who helped us to turn our ideas into architectural plans, while helping us to refine ideas and improve both the build quality and livability of the final home. When it came time to build, we hired Stephane Charette and his crew at Bala Structures. They have built a number of high efficiency homes, and they do extraordinarily high quality work and came up with a lot of innovative solutions to figuring out the details of the build. The house itself is the perfect size for a family that likes to spend time together and entertain, a 2000 square foot, 3 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom home, with an open concept upstairs living space, and bedrooms and utilities tucked into the lower walkout level, all built into the side of a hilltop.

As I have time, I will write posts on the various aspects of our project that seem to be worth sharing, from the application of design principles, to product choices that we made, and even my take on how to live with an off-grid power system.

These posts include:
Inspiration for our home
Building site and orientation
Our building envelope
Heating systems for our home - and some lessons learned
Generating power off the grid
Electricity usage patterns for our off grid home 
Mechanical and other home systems for our off grid home 
Technical presentation about the house
Energy model of the house
My go-to list of Resources on building practices and renewable energy
Some thoughts on architectural and interior design 
Algonquin College Presentation

As we built what has been considered an interesting project by everyone involved, we actively sought out some press coverage to allow us to highlight the things that we think make our place special. These include:

The Ottawa Citizen. The local big newspaper does real estate pieces, and wrote a feature story about our home on February 27, 2015:

EcoHome. This is a website that focuses on sustainable housing.
A short article that is mostly about the building envelope of the home:
A reinterpretation of some of the blog posts from this site: http://www.ecohome.net/news/latest/grid-living-blog-firsthand-account-building-living-remote-area

SabMag. Sustainable Architecture and Building, which focuses sustainable design in Canada:
The full article from the print version is also on hosted on the Bala Structures website:

The Low Down to Hull and Back News. The local magazine/newspaper for our rural area north of Ottawa: (hosted by our builder, Bala Structures): http://balastructures.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2015-01-Low-Down-Modifi%C3%A9-LEED-Home-in-Low.pdf

Houzz website. A few images of the interior of the home provide a bit of eye candy:

Green Building Advisor. This is a great resource for high efficiency building, renewable energy, and more. Scott Gibson, one of the main site coordinators, turned several of the blog posts that I wrote into articles to share on the GBA site. To make that happen, he did some light editing of my writing, and then combined the sections of posts that were most appropriate for the GBA audience into a set of articles. Those pieces can be found below:
Building an Off-Grid Home in Canada
Off-Grid in Canada: The Building Envelope
Off-Grid in Canada: What We Did for Heat
Off-Grid in Canada: Solar Was the Only Real Choice
Off-Grid in Canada: Choosing Efficient Appliances
Off-Grid in Canada: An Energy Model of the House

1 comment:

  1. love being inspired ! I too am from ottawa and we are starting to design an off grid home, a coach house of 750 ft2, for our backyard. we would love to get in touch ! gordon & carmen,