Keith Robertson and Jennifer Corson of Solterre Design have built themeselves a house that presses so many buttons it's hard to know where to start. It is a 1500 square foot test bed of green tech mixed with simple passive design, with a green roof on top.
Located on a saltwater inlet near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, the home is a 1500 square foot off-grid sustainable demonstration retreat/future retirement home for Solterre Design's principals, Keith Robertson and Jennifer Corson and their two children. With over twenty years of experience along Nova Scotia's south shore, Jen and Keith called upon a developed network of local craftsmen to build an off-grid home that sets a new standard for self-sufficiency and provides a open and eclectic space to display many innovative green features to student groups, industry colleagues and interested folks in the local community. Or, the most favourite aspect of the house? To simply gazing across the gently sloping pasture to the ocean.
It's got everything green, including the kitchen sink; it is recovered from a nursing home. The kitchen counters are from a hospital. Instead of the usual sand, the septic system bed is built from 70 tonnes of recycled glass.
From the architect's website:
The home is not tied to the electrical grid, but instead supplies all of its electricity through a photovoltaic array. Primary heat is supplied by solar energy, both passive and active, and a small, high-efficiency wood fireplace. Solar thermal panels supply heat for hot water and secondary heating. Propane fuels the kitchen stove and acts as a supplementary backup fuel to the heat and hot water systems. A DC refrigerator and other Energy Star appliances are used, as every kilowatt of energy used must be produced on site. By using the most energy efficient lighting, appliances and equipment possible, and meeting the Passive House (Passivhaus) standard, the amount of photovoltaics needed is relatively small, making off-grid living an affordable option, while providing an exceptionally comfortable home.
This is the beauty of a Passivhaus; you don't need a huge array of photovoltaics, and you don't worry as much about leaving the house for a couple of days (it's currently being used on weekends) because it is built like a thermos bottle.
Due to a super insulated envelope (roof, wall and foundation) and extensive southern glazing, the house will never drop below 15 degrees Celsius (58 degrees Fahrenheit), even if unoccupied and unheated for long periods of time in the winter. The exterior is clad in durable and low maintenance materials: cement panels and an untreated torrefied wood open-joint rainscreen. The sod roof uses a traditional Faroe Islands technique that requires little upkeep.
In fact, the hot water baseboard radiators were not turned on all last winter. There may well be more green tech in this house than is actually required.
The house has achieved LEED Platinum for homes, is going through Passivhaus certification, and has won a Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor Award of Merit. Nicely done by Solterre Design.