Building Our Own Net Zero HIGH PERFORMANCE HOME

When It All Began

When we started Sonbuilt Custom Homes back in 1995, our goal was to build to the best quality and standards possible.  We had already built several homes on our own and enjoyed the home building experience.  Those early days of being self employed were full of challenges and growth opportunities.  We learned the “ins and outs” of running a business, hiring employees, and balancing work and play.  It wasn’t easy.  Being self employed is never really easy.

The Dream Begins at Lot 4

Fast forward a number of years and we started dreaming of building our own home.  A net zero High Performance Home that would “showcase” all of the features we can offer to our customers.  Our dream took shape in 2010 when we found our dream property we affectionately call “Lot 4”.

Sonbuilt Great Wall

The slope of the land meant before we could even begin construction of our home, we had to build several retaining walls to keep the slope from sliding into our foundation.  We called it the season of building the “Sonbuilt Great Wall”.  It was a lot of hard work and there were definitely times when we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into!

Insulated Concrete Forms

We were finally ready to start the foundation and, of course, we built our foundation and walls using Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) so that our home would be comfortable from basement to top floor throughout the year.

Geo Exchange

As we started the foundation, we brought in the rig to drill for the geo exchange system.  Geo exchange uses the temperature in the earth to heat and cool our net zero home.

Walls of Foam

We decided to build both our foundation and walls of our High Performance Home with ICF to ensure a quiet, durable, energy efficient home.  This was a new concept for some of our neighbours and we frequently had to explain the benefit of building with insulated concrete forms.

A Home With Braces

For the main floor of our High Performance Home we used Quad Deck.  Quad-Deck combines the strength, security, and reliability of reinforced concrete with the energy efficiency, fast construction, and comfort of insulating concrete forms.  The lower level needed extensive bracing for the concrete pour and concrete curing process.

A Growth Spurt of … FOAM!

With the main floor poured, we were ready to grow higher.  We continued to install the insulated concrete forms for the main floor walls and within a few weeks, we poured the top floor.  Every time we poured concrete, we wished the rain away.  We were pretty fortunate (most of the time)!

Rainwater Harvesting System

As a resident of Abbotsford, we pay for city supplied water.  Every drop.  We decided to install 9 GRAF rainwater harvesting tanks below the ground for water storage.  The water we harvest will be used for laundry, car washing, toilets, and irrigation.  The day of the installation was exciting!   Our rainwater harvesting system is the largest GRAF residential system in Canada.  Both University Sprinklers and Barr Plastics were on the jobsite and a marketing video promoting the system was taped.

Installing the Timber

By now the trusses and roofing were installed and we were heading into winter.  Despite the moist, cool weather, we decided to install the timber accents.  This required that we cover the front of the house with plastic and work in the dry space.  The house was covered for several months.  We were pretty excited when we encountered a few dry days of sunshine when we could finally reveal the timber!

A Retaining Wall.  Again.

Summer was now upon us and it was time to tackle the slope behind the house.  Using Redi-rock we built the retaining wall behind the house.  It took a lot of time, resources, and creative thought. We are pretty happy with how it turned out!

Drywall

Prior to drywall we took numerous photos of the interior of the home so we would know the locations of important pipes and wiring.  We do that on every net zero home we build.  During drywall we rented a lift to assist in drywalling the high ceilings and walls.  It was dusty and heavy work but overall, fun!

Finishing Details

With the majority of the drywall done we started painting and installing doors and trim.  We have an oval ceiling in the suite upstairs.  Mark, one of our team, was the inspiration behind this ceiling.  We call it Mark’s Ceiling.

Tying it All Together

A big step towards completion was hooking up the plumbing, heating, and electrical systems.  In a net zero home like this, there are many, many components that need to work together seamlessly.

Solar Power!

Installing a solar panel system is a big decision that more and more people are choosing to make.  There are a number of reasons why we chose to invest in solar for our net zero home.  Since the day we installed the solar panels, we have regularly checked our account with BC Hydro to compare our cost of electricity from day to day.  We noticed an immediate drop in our daily cost of power!

Wrapping up Construction

Is the home of a builder every really done?  Yes, the finish line is nearly here.  Some minor aspects still need completion and the builder’s wife will be very happy when the lower part of the property is landscaped.  But I digress.

Fulfilling any dream isn’t easy and our net zero High Performance Home journey has had many interesting moments.  Are you interested in knowing more about building your own net zero home?  Contact us today!

Thanks for reading!

Framing at Taylor Landing

Project Update “Taylor Landing”

Framing at Taylor Landing!

Over the past few weeks we’ve begun framing at our Fraser Valley project we call “Taylor Landing”.  It’s been exciting to see this home take shape and we are pretty happy to be finished the often wet and muddy foundation work.  Soon the main floor walls will be going up and trusses will follow shortly!

A Step Code 5 High Performance Home

This High Performance Home is Step Code 5.  Step Code refers to the steps of performance targets in new construction making homes more energy efficient.  Step Code 5 is the highest level of energy efficiency in Step Code and means that the home is Net Zero Ready.  The goal of Step Code in British Columbia is to have all new buildings Net Zero energy ready by 2032.

Features in this High Performance Home

Taylor Landing will feature many High Performance Home items:

    • Heat Recovery Ventilator: We call it a Fresh Air machine.  It provides 24/7 fresh air and regular climate control
    • Insulated Concrete Forms: Also known as ICF, this foundation will keep the home more quiet, comfortable and energy efficient a home built with a traditional foundation
    • Exterior Continuous Insulation: We will wrap the exterior of the home in a special exterior insulation before we apply the exterior cladding.  By doing this we block any gaps that result in mold and air leakage.
    • Rainwater Harvesting: Rainwater harvesting can be used for sprinkling lawns and irrigation, flushing toilets, washing cars, and laundry.  There are four 1,700 gallon tanks in this home.
    • Solar Panels: These panels will  take energy from the sun and convert it into clean power for the home.
    • Geo Exchange: The geo exchange system uses the energy of the sun, stored in the earth, to keep the home comfortable all year long.
    • Radiant Floor Heating: Radiant heating has a number of advantages. It is more efficient than baseboard heating and        usually more efficient than forced-air heating because it eliminates duct losses. People with allergies often prefer radiant heat because it doesn’t distribute allergens like forced air systems can.

Contact Us for Information!

If you are looking for more information on building a High Performance Home, please don’t hesitate to contact us!  We believe you will “Live Better in a High Performance Home”.

Understanding Radon

Understanding Radon

What is Radon Gas?

Radon gas is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas found in many, many homes.  There are an estimated 3,300 radon-induced lung cancer deaths per year in Canada.  It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.

Where does Radon come from? 

Radon comes from the decay of uranium minerals found in rock, soil, and water.  It does not naturally occur indoors, however, radon can get into your home anywhere it finds an opening where your home contacts soil.  For example, cracks in foundation walls and floor slabs, construction joints, gaps around service pipes and support posts, floor drains and sumps, and water supply.

Why is Radon so dangerous?

Radon itself is radioactive.  When outdoors, radon mixes with the open air and dilutes it.  However, indoors, it is trapped.  It becomes concentrated resulting in serious health risks, especially lung cancer.

To find out if your home has a radon problem you have to measure the radon concentration inside of it.

How Do I Test My Home for Radon?

To find out if your home has a radon problem you have to measure the radon concentration inside of it.

Health Canada recommends you test for radon every two years.  Radon is volatile and it is normal for levels of radon to change regularly 

There are radon professionals in the Greater Vancouver area like Radon Environmental who can work with you to test your home.  They provide radon mitigation solutions for residential homes and workplaces.

Radon Mitigation Products

As a builder, we use radon mitigation products in the construction of your home to decrease the amount of radon gas capable of seeping into the home.   By doing so, we ensure your new home is safe and free from harmful levels of radon gas.

Health and safety is one of our top priorities, which is why radon mitigation is an important aspect to every one of our new homes.  We urge you to look into what you can do to keep your family safe.

Concrete Window Wells

Maintenance Free Window Wells

What is a Window Well?

If your home has a basement with windows you probably have window wells too.  Window wells are the openings in the ground that allow light to come into the basement.  Often, window wells are made from metal, plastic, wood, or concrete blocks to support the surrounding earth.  Window wells must be properly installed to ensure excess rainwater drains away from your foundation.  They can become a high maintenance item if not properly built and cared for.

Why Concrete?

Our solution is a maintenance free stamped concrete window well.  Why concrete?  Pressure treated wood will last between 5 to 10 years.  Corrugated metal will start to rust and break down between 10 and 15 years after installation.  If improperly installed, both of these products can become a concern for the homeowner.  They can cave in or become misaligned with the foundation causing expensive repair bills.

How Long Does a Concrete Window Well Last?

A concrete window well installed directly onto the concrete footing of your home will never move and can last indefinitely.  They are strong, durable, and virtually maintenance free.  A well built concrete window well will go a long way in preventing future water damage in the basement of your home.

Check out our video below! For more videos on how we build new homes built, click here.

Maintenance Free Concrete Window Wells
ICF Foundation

ICF – Starting with a Better Foundation

This week we started the foundation on the “Woodside” home at the Vine at Pepin Brook.  If you drive be the site, you will notice we are building the foundation out of Quadlock ICF, also known as “Insulated Concrete Forms”.   These large foam panels are easy to assemble, almost like building with lego, and contribute to our High Performance Wall system.  Once the concrete for the foundation has been poured, the icf panels remain in place, not stripped away like form panels of a conventional foundation.

Why Do We Use Insulated Concrete Forms?

We believe achieving the best living environment starts with a solid foundation.  We use ICF (insulated concrete forms) to produce a more comfortable, quiet, and energy-efficient home than those built with traditional construction methods. Homes built with ICF foundations retain heat more effectively.  Basements feel warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.  Homes have a more even temperature, fewer drafts, and fewer hot and cold spots.

Building for Comfort

As a builder, we keep comfort in mind when we build a home.  Both thermal comfort and sound-wise comfort.  We find ICFs are ideal for both.   A comfortable environment offers a better quality of home life for families and their guests.

Saving on Energy

An ICF foundation provides greater insulation performance ratings, resulting in better energy efficiency.   These high-performing foundations contribute to lower energy bills and less wear and tear on the home mechanicals.

Good Air Quality

Indoor air quality is something we often don’t think about until it becomes a concern.  Maintaining a healthy environment is important in any indoor space, especially your home.  An ICF foundation, combined with the Sonbuilt High Performance Wall system and a heat recovery ventilator, will keep humidity levels in a healthy range and provide filtered, unpolluted air for everyone in the home.  The risk of mold is greatly reduced and indoor air is filtered and fresh.

Are you interested in owning this rancher, the “Woodside” and benefiting from living in a better built home?  Contact us today!  Let’s talk!

Barrow Family

The Barrow Home, Two Years Later

A few days ago we stopped in to visit Wil and Sara and their twin daughters, Marlee and Paige.  We first met this family back in 2014.  At that time they were excited to build their dream home in Ryder Lake near Chilliwack, BC.   They really wanted to build a High Performance Home.  Clean, fresh indoor air was a high priority for them as allergies were a concern in their family.

Building a Family’s Dream Home

We designed and built a two story home with a basement.  The large open kitchen and great room are ideal for sharing meals together and family time.  A spacious laundry room contains a wide bench with plenty of hooks for hanging sports gear, jackets, and back packs.  The girls were thrilled to have their own bedrooms and were allowed to choose the paint colours.  The open space in the basement has space for indoor sports and lots of storage.

Energy Efficient and Low Cost to Operate

Their home is very energy efficient!  It is built to the R-2000 Standard making it 50% more efficient than homes built to the standard BC Building Code.  In the winter, the warm air stays in the home and in the summer, the home is cool and comfortable.  Wil and Sara shared a story about a power outage that took place a few months after they moved into the home.  It was below freezing outdoors and after several days of no power, the home dropped one degree!  They are very pleased with how cost effective the home is to heat and cool.

We completed their home in 2016 and it was fun to catch up with them at their home to see how they are doing.

ReUse, RePurpose, ReCycle

This latest Sonbuilt Fraser Valley project is all about doing a demolition responsibly. We are re-purposing as items in the home as possible by reusing many materials in the new build and recycling the items we don’t use to ensure they don’t end up in a landfill.

Reducing Waste

As a team, we are tackling this home as a “dismantling” project, rather than attack and destroy. Each item is carefully uninstalled and analyzed. If it can be reused in the future home, we will wrap it for storage. Some items are being donated to charity. Others are being sold on social media. Recyclable materials will be sorted through responsibly. As much as possible, we are avoiding the garbage bin.

We are enjoying this challenge! Stay tuned for updates and photos!

Fraser Valley Home and Garden Expo

We are very excited to be in the Fraser Valley Home and Garden Expo in Abbotsford at Tradex on February 8 – 10!  Come visit us at booths 212, 213, and 214.

This Fraser Valley based show has a vast array of both interior and exterior products for your home and features a number of landscaping, remodeling, interior design, and home construction companies from areas throughout Greater Vancouver.

When and Where:

Show Location:  Tradex, 1190 Cornell Street, Abbotsford, BC

Show Times:

                Friday, February 8:  1pm – 9pm

                Saturday, February 9:  10am – 6pm

                Sunday, February 10:  10am – 4pm

 Click here for admission prices and show info.

See you at the show!

Merry Christmas from Sonbuilt

Merry Christmas from Sonbuilt!

Merry Christmas!

We at Sonbuilt Custom Homes would like to take a moment to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

2019 is already shaping up to be a busy year for Sonbuilt!  This past fall we have worked diligently at completing the site services at THE VINE at Pepin Brook.   We are excited to be starting construction in the Spring.   If you are looking to have a home designed and built, be sure to contact us early in the New Year.

All the best this Holiday season!  And … a big thank you to all of our customers, staff, trades and suppliers!  We couldn’t do this without you!

Building a Rancher

Yes, We Build Ranchers!

Do You Build Ranchers?

It’s the most common question we are asked.  A classic Rancher floor plan combines the kitchen, great room, 1 or 2 bedrooms, laundry room, and all other essentials spaces for daily living on a single level.  The home may include a basement below, or a games room above.

Ranchers are ideal for those ready to downsize after the kids have left home.  Perfect for one level living, yet still maintaining plenty of usable space for visiting grandchildren, entertaining friends, and weekly family dinners.

Several years ago we won 2nd place in a Canada wide competition for accessible housing.  This home, the Panama, was designed and built specifically for a “young at heart” couple who planned to live in their Sonbuilt home as long as possible.  It was their final home.   To see photos of this home, click here.

Do You Want to Live in a Rancher?

Are you thinking about downsizing and plan to make your next home your “final” home?  If so, let’s make that home a place where you can live independently and safely as long as possible.  We call this “Aging in Place”.  Click here to find out more information on what we design into our homes to ensure the home is safe and smart for long term living.

YES!  We do build ranchers!  Contact us today for more information!