Monday, October 24, 2016

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse in LEED home

With increasing awareness and concern over the energy costs and health impacts of new homes, the idea of building a sustainable home is quickly catching on across Canada.  What many people do not realize is that resilient, green homes can help families ride out the collapse of society in any number of scenarios.

As Canada's most stringently verified and sustainable homes,  LEED homes are more energy efficient, durable and sustainable then other homes. These homes also feature increased resiliency against future disasters, be it a bad blizzard, extended power outages or the occasionally predicted Zombie Apocalypse.

Long Term Grid Down (LTGD)
The first things to shut down in an emergency situation are typically the electricity and gas grids. LEED homes are better insulated than average homes built to Code minimum specification.  Many LEED homes take advantage of passive solar heat and feature improved window and wall insulation, meaning a the home will stay warmer in a grid down scenario.  Many LEED homes even earn credit for solar electric PV arrays which can provide sustainable power to the home during an emergency situation, ensuring frozen food stockpiles are kept fresh and the electric fence stays on.

Indoor Air Quality
During many disasters, ensuring clean indoor air is critical.  Air tightness and air filtration are key to keeping out super bugs and the ashes of society as we know it. All LEED homes are third party tested and are required to have an extremely tight building envelope. To further ensure healthy indoor air quality, LEED homes require balanced ventilation systems and good air filtration. MERV 12 air filters can filter out many bacteria strains including, we're sure, the more common Zombie related strains; MERV 14 filters will keep out the smoke from the burning bodies.

Building a durable home is a key requirement of the LEED program. Builders must add 15 to 25 durability measures specific to their region and climate. Durable siding will help prevent damage during zombie raids and allow for easy cleaning of blood and gore.  Pest control features will help keep the rats and cockroaches from infesting your home as other food sources collapse, and maintaining minimum distances between the house and landscape vegetation will limit the areas that zombies can lie in wait for the unsuspecting homeowner.

Water efficiency
LEED provides credit for rainwater and grey water reuse. These features can allow for off-the-grid water and back up systems. With city water systems down, and no outside help or food sources available for the foreseeable future, being able to water your food garden and sustain your family will mean the difference between surviving or not.  As long as you have running water, the end of the world may be coming, but at least you can still flush your water efficient toilet and enjoy a low-flow shower.

The end of modern society is really only one super bug, nuclear strike, meteor impact or zombie apocalypse away, and the effects of climate change may stretch our municipal services to their breaking points.  LEED homes provide a welcome resilience to an uncertain future while providing comfort and energy savings for today.

Friday, August 19, 2016


Landscaping begins

As the renovation continues (and continues and continues!), we’ve moved outside and have started on the backyard.  Last fall saw the removal of what remained of the old fence…..

…and the installation of the new one.  We chose to excavate back right to the property line, opening up a surprisingly large amount of space that had previously been unusable because of the overgrown slope.  The team from Chris Smith Landscaping arrived onsite in early October and quickly pulled out the old and got started on the new….

Because of the slope of the property, and the amount of traffic in the alley above the yard sees, we wanted something very solid.  Both visually and structurally.   The posts are 8x8 pressure treated wood, installed 6’ below yard grade.  They form continuous support upwards for the 3’ retaining wall (4x6 pressure treated lumber) and then the 6’ fence above the wall.  We’re pretty confident that the construction trucks frequenting the alley in the winters will not end up sliding into the yard now.

As it was late October by this point, we chose to put the rest of the yard on hold for the winter so we laid down landscape cloth to hold the worst of the dirt down for the season.  Given the lack of snow cover, this was a good choice.

As spring approached, we were in touch with Eagle Lake Landscaping to discuss pricing of their drought resistant fescue sod which contains a mix of sheep fescue, red fescue and hard fescue.  Fescue sod is relatively new on the market and has seen mostly commercial applications.  Eagle Lake generously offered us Freedom Fescue product to use in our yard as a test site for residential application.  We’re excited to see how it holds up to kid traffic.  (If you are in Calgary and are interested in seeing the sod in person, please contact us at

Fescue is a "non-conventional" turf in LEED environmental speak.  With its very good drought tolerance, reduced need for maintenance and care such as fertilizing, in projects pursuing LEED for Homes certification such as ours, sod like this can contribute points in Sustainable Sites.  

As soon as the sod was ready to cut, we jumped on it and were treated to the perfect weekend weather for sodding (rain and snow pellets).
Eight long hours of rototilling, raking, picking rocks and sod chunks, more raking, rolling, laying sod and more rolling...

The end of the day.  And the sun started to peak out.

Now at the beginning of August, the fescue sod is well established.  It is soft, whether left long or cut short, and a deep, lush green. As a fescue, even when allowed to grow in, it looks looks less unkempt that a regular lawn, thanks to a growth habit that leaves it slightly bent over rather than straight upright, and it feels amazing to walk on it with bare feet.  

We'll need to do a bit of overseeding next spring to patch a few small spots that didn't take or that we missed in the early watering.  These spots are minimal though and it is otherwise impossible to see where the sod seams w.
We've also discovered that, while tilling some of the old sod under kept it out of the landfill and left the organic material in the topsoil, it's added some lumps ad bumps underneath that we didn't manage to roll out.  Hopefully these will level out and soften as they start to compost!

Cut short it looks more like a conventional turf but feels softer on the feet.

So far our overall impression of this seed mix is that it is a fantastic.   What we have not yet had occasion to test is drought tolerance, since we’ve had so much rain, but it does stand up well to wet and to a wide range of lighting conditions ( we have full sun, full shade and partial shade in the yard)

The finished fence and planting bed!  In the corner is a Swedish Columnar Aspen, chosen to fill in the corner without taking over the yard.  We've also planted a few hops plants and plan to add trellising on the fence to encourage growth upward and outward to break up the height of the wall and provide some natural cooling.

Landscaping is a huge part of a sustainable home.  Outdoor water can easily exceed indoor use so water efficient faucets and toilets only can go so far.  Small changes to the traditional back yard can create a space that is still a very kid friendly play space without the water demand or maintenance of typical sod.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Just reminding folks of the Net Zero Energy trading we are doing at SAIT next week for the CHBA.  One day session is going to cover Program and Technical aspects of the CHBA’s new Net Zero labeling program.  Later in the spring we will be offering new dates for the R2000 Builder Training for those builders who’s training has expired.  If your R2000 Builder status is current, all you’ll need is this one day session to allow you begin building CHBA Net Zero Energy homes. 

March 3rd 9-5 @ SAIT

Registration is now open and can be paid directly by calling EnerVision 780-701-1722 or 1-866-871-7563. 

Session includes lunch and refreshments for $249/person

More information is here:

Let me know if you have any questions as I will be co-teaching.  It should be a informative and interesting session to kick off this exciting new green building standard. 


Tyler Hermanson, Director 
LEED Green Rater/QAD, CEA, Arch. Tech.