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”.

Built Better and Feels Better

Feel Better About Your Future in a High Performance Home

Imagine living in a home that’s built better, feels better, and allows you to live better.  And it just happens to make as much energy as it uses.  A Sonbuilt High Performance Home will provide you with comfort that saves on energy.  A comfortable home is warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and free from drafts.  For many homeowners, comfort is a high priority.

“I wanted a better living experience for my family.”

~  High Performance Home Owner

We use materials in our homes that respect the environment and ensure lower energy bills, improved comfort, and clean indoor air quality.  Some of these materials include insulation upgrades, higher-performance, Low-E Argon windows, more efficient heating with a complete HRV system and sealed ducts for better air distribution.

We combine comfort, energy savings, and environmentally caring products into each of our homes while respecting your wallet and your budget.

Let’s Chat About Your New Home

We’d love the opportunity to chat about your new home.  Contact us today!

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