Monday, June 21, 2010

Montreal Eco Condos Make it Easy to Be Green

I finally got a chance to tour the Abondance Montréal condo development yesterday. The newly built triplex is a prize-winning example of sustainable housing, concieved by EcoCité Developments and located in my favorite neighborhood, Verdun. The first phase of development is known as Le Soleil, a nod to the building's solar energy features.
I've been following the Abondance Montréal story for years now, dating back to my days as The Gazette's real estate reporter.
The project is one of the winning entries in a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. competition to build highly energy-efficient homes that have a low impact on the environment. The big idea behind the program was to find ways to build homes that create as much energy as they consume, so-called Net Zero homes.
Phase I of Abondance Montréal meets that goal beautifully. The three-unit building is topped by a very large solar panel array that serves as a sun shade on the shared roof terrace. The panels not only supply all the energy needed for the three units but also sends surplus energy back into the Hydro-Québec grid. At the end of the year, the condo project creates as much energy as it uses. Even better, the condo owners never have to worry about paying for electricity or hot water. They get it for free.

Christopher Holmes, the dynamic young entrepreneur behind Abondance Montréal, led the hour-long tour of the building yesterday. He explained that as amazing as the solar power system on the roof is, it is merely the crowning element to a carefully considered project.  The building consumes only 24 per cent of the energy a typical Canadian home would, largely because of the choices that were made during the design and construction phases.
The biggest energy savings come because of the highly efficient building envelope, which has an R-45 rating, nearly three times better than the usual stud, fiberglass and vapour barrier plus brick confection. The sprayed on urethane insulation is made from soy-bean oil and recycled plastic bottles. It requires less labour to get the job done.
The windows are triple glazed. The windows and transoms were installed to take advantage of natural light and passive solar energy. A geothermal pump uses the Earth's own heat to keep each unit comfortable. Recovery systems grab the heat out of hot water as it circles down the drain and from exhaust air before it is expelled through the ventilation system.
Water from the roof drain and from the French drain that keeps the foundation dry is redirected not into the municipal sewage system but into a holding tank, where the water is filtered and used to flush the toilets. Other elements like low-flow toilets and energy efficient appliances, a master control that allow you to cut the power when you leave home in the morning, all help make it much easier to be green. Holmes took pains to explain that all the green components used in the project are readily available through local or regional suppliers.                                                                                                                                                                                                       Rob Miners of Studio MMA was lead architect on the project. His firm has gained a solid reputation for its work in sustainable architecture. Their best known project is the Mountain Equipment Co-op store in Marché Central. Abondance Montréal is making just as much of a splash.
Holmes was asked by one of the people on the tour why his firm had chosen to build in Verdun. I beamed with pleasure as he talked about the area's many advantages, including proximity to the Métro (LaSalle station is about two blocks away) the nearness to downtown and the ease with which one can find services on nearby Wellington St.
"It's an up and coming neighborhood and one we believe in," Holmes said.
Two of the three eco condos have already been sold. The third will remain open to visitors for another few months but it is for sale  though, sadly, not by me. Asking price is $299,000 for 1,040 square feet of living space.
EcoCité has broken ground for a second phase of development, to be called La Terre. It will be a four-storey project with many of the same features, with one important difference. While it will be built to be be solar-panel ready, it will not initially feature solar energy. That's because Phase I Abondance was built as a demonstration project and benefitted from grants and subsidies from partners like Hydro-Québec. That aid won't be available for the second phase, putting the cost of a big solar package out of bounds, for now.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. Saw this a while ago and thought it was quite interesting. Verdun is the place to be!


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