Tag Archives: advanced energy systems
Technology and a new ecological consciousness are transforming the innards of some new houses
John Bentley Mays – Globe and Mail
Driving or walking along the leafy streets in the Governor’s Bridge district of Rosedale, you might never notice the house I’m writing about this week. It’s new, but it fits without a glitch into the quiet urban streetscape of similarly new, stylistically old-fashioned homes.
What counts about this 3,400-square-foot dwelling is not its architecture, which is hardly daring or inventive, but its exceptional efficiency. Using some of the most advanced energy systems now available in the marketplace, Toronto designer Richard C. Brightling has created a house that looks forward into the future of construction, when all new residences will be required to perform much better than they do now. With clients demanding greener solutions to their need for housing, and architects increasingly adept at coming up with such solutions, that future is not far off.
Energy-saving features of the Governor’s Bridge house include a high-performance building envelope that is insulated to a standard considerably beyond what is now required by city construction codes. The atmosphere inside this tight skin is kept fresh and clean by an exchanger that replaces and filters the air every four hours.
Heating and cooling is accomplished with a $70,000 geothermal system. Six fluid-carrying tubes have been sunk 200 feet into the ground, where the temperature is a steady 14.4 C. Pumped up to the surface and into a control room in the basement – this tightly packed, high-tech facility resembles what I imagine a submarine interior to look like – the fluid is then used to modify the temperature of fan-forced air. Geo-thermal energy is not free; electricity is needed to run the pumps and raise the temperature from its base level of 14.4C to something more comfortable. Nevertheless, Mr. Brightling told me, his clients’ annual savings on air conditioning come in at 30 to 40%.
Hot water for showers, dishwashing and so forth is generated by solar thermal panels installed on the roof. Glycol (which does not freeze in winter) circulates through the panels, gathering heat from the sun that, in turn, heats water in the tank. I was surprised to find that the tap water was very hot indeed – on a cool spring day, with little or no help from hydro. This $8,000 system works efficiently in our northern climate for most of the year, Mr. Brightling said, taking notable strain off the electricity grid (and hence lightening the electric bill).
Being a confirmed apartment-dweller, I don’t have a lawn, nor do I understand the North American obsession with having lawns. But if one must keep a green patch out front and back of the house, it should pull its weight, environmentally speaking. It does so here. Mr. Brightling has installed a 4,500-litre tank under the back yard of this project that effectively catches rain water running off the roofs of the main house and the garden shed and makes this water available for irrigating the lawns. This uncomplicated plumbing arrangement is an example of good ecological stewardship, especially in a city that wastes far too much water.
Back inside the house, Mr. Brightling has introduced a few other smaller features that also enhance the pleasure and sense of security in living there. There are the ceiling sprinklers, for instance – nearly invisible fixtures intended to deploy individually when the air around them reaches 100 C. And there is the lighting, equipped with low-wattage LED and halogen bulbs to further enhance the energy efficiency of the house.
These, then, are the major and minor systems at work in Mr. Brightling’s technical outfitting – some complex, others simple, all suitable for comfortable living in a sustainable, environmentally responsible manner. Nor is the cost of these green measures, as a percentage of total expenditure, really prohibitive. Of the $1.8-million it took to build the Governor’s Bridge house, only $150,000 was invested in green technologies – all of which will bring cost savings down the line.
Now, to marry such advanced thinking about the environment to contemporary good design! Like the passion for lawns, the desire for a 2010 house that looks like it was done in the 1920s escapes me. Windows were small back in those days, interiors were chopped up into small rooms, the middle of the building was always dark. To be fair, Mr. Brightling has opened up the rear of the Governor’s Bridge house to the light, but the front façade is as fusty and serious as anything in Rosedale from 80 years ago. The architectural taste of Rosedale residents, it appears, has some catching up to do, if it’s to stay abreast of the technological advances taking root in their dignified old neighbourhood.
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