TreeHugger likes to keep an eye on the green building scene, and, whether we're learning more about the industry, reading books about how to do it or watching its products and services grow, there's a lot going on these days. Even so, our ears still perk up when we hear terms like "Zero-Energy Homes" (ZEH) or "Net-Zero Energy Homes" (NZEH). These buzzwords describe buildings that are connected to the utility grid, but combine highly energy-efficient design and technology with solar electric and thermal systems to produce as much energy as they use on an annual basis, resulting in net zero energy consumption. Homes like these have a lot going for them: improved comfort, as an energy-efficient building envelope reduces temperature fluctuations, reliability, because the systems continue functioning during blackouts and protection from fluctuations in energy prices and environmental sustainability are just a few. They optimize a variety of features, including climate-specific design; passive solar heating and cooling; energy-efficient construction, appliances and lighting; and solar thermal and solar electric systems.In Canada, a group of homebuilders and renewable energy enthusiasts, The Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition, have been working on and discussing these ideas for several years. They've concluded that Canada has the potential to become a world leader in the design and construction of NZEHs, and they're serious about it: in a presentation to the Toronto Green Building Festival in October, 2005, the Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition predicted that by 2030 all new homes built in Canada would meet a net-zero energy standard.
So how are they going to do it? Starting this year, in May, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation began accepting Expressions of Interest from builder and developer teams to participate in what they are now calling the "Net Zero Energy Healthy Housing" initiative (NZEHH). Up to 20 teams will be selected from the responses to proceed with the detailed design development of their projects. Six to 12 winning designs will be selected to advance to the construction and demonstration phase for NZEHH projects across Canada. Successful demonstration teams will be recognized nationally as a competition winner and will receive a financial contribution of between $50,000 and $100,000, depending on the costs associated with the project. Teams will also receive technical, marketing, research and communications support so the good word can be spread around Canada, encouraging other homeowners and builders to consider going net energy-free. Makes sense to us. ::Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition via ::Hugg and ::Life.ca