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First certified net zero home in the Kootenays built in Shoreacres

The Morleys built a net zero home with traditional building supplies and plenty of windows.

A Shoreacres couple has completed a dream they have been working towards for several years — proving you can build a net zero home with traditional building supplies and plenty of windows.

Phil and Victoria Morley have built the first Canadian Home Builders Association certified net zero home in the Kootenays.

A net zero home produces as much energy throughout the year as it consumes. It connects to the power grid and when excess power is produced, it is uploaded to the grid. When power demand is more than the supply produced by the home, power is then taken from the grid. Over the course of a year, the two factors balance each other out.

“We are hoping to inspire other builders and people looking to build new homes to build better, more efficient homes,” said Victoria.

The Morleys have started their own construction company — Morley Mountain Homes — with the hopes of building many more energy-efficient homes.

Phil says the issues surrounding climate change and a goal of building what is considered the “gold standard” of housing inspired him to make his home the first the company built.

Phil has been a builder for a number of years and Victoria has a background in interior design.

“It is a misconception that net zero homes can’t have windows and aren’t very comfortable and don’t have the same luxuries as a normal house,” said Victoria. “We tried to prove that wrong.”

Phil said, “It’s just a typical home, built better.”

The Morleys had the help of Nelson architect Matthew Stanley designing the open concept, loft-style home.

Victoria has a theory that designing homes from the inside out is the way to go. She is putting that idea into practice currently as she works on designing the next home they plan to build.

Phil explains the most expensive part of building for a net zero goal is the energy production side of things, so it is better to invest in things that reduce the home’s energy consumption.

“You spend money on really insulating your walls, making the building airtight, efficient appliances and lighting.”

Victoria loves many things about her new home, but the air quality and resulting quality of sleep she gets top the list.

“We just feel like we are breathing the best air,” she said.

That is thanks to an air filtration system that works with the air source heat pump used for heating.

Glancing around the house, you will notice thick windowsills. This is because the exterior walls are double the size of older homes. There is basically an outer wall and inner wall and the space in between is packed with spray-in insulation.

You will also notice all of the lights are LED.

The Province of BC has developed an energy efficient step code for buildings with a goal of having all all new builds to be Step 5 — or net zero ready — by 2032. So net-zero homes are going to be the way of the future.

Surprisingly, Phil says net-zero homes are estimated to cost only 10 to 15 per cent more than building a standard modern home.

“A lot of the upgrades are included in the way the houses are being built already,” said Phil

“You don’t have single-pane windows anymore, even triple pane are starting to become more common. A lot of these things that used to be considered really high efficiency are becoming standard.”

There are still a few finishing touches such as decorating and landscaping to finish up at the house that sits on the banks of the Kootenay River, but the Morleys are thoroughly enjoying the energy efficient comfort of their new home.

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Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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