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The LEED Platinum REEP House is a deep energy retrofit of a century home in the historic Victoria Park neighbourhood of Kitchener. Having achieved a 90% energy reduction, this CMHC case study featured project sets the new standard for residential energy retrofits.

Early in the design process we created a poster to summarize the design and efficiency goals of the project. We set our sights on Near Net Zero, meaning that, with the addition of a rooftop full of solar panels, the house could consume zero energy annually. An 80% carbon emission reduction, plus a 60% water use reduction rounded out the early targets.

Like many houses in established urban areas, REEP House is substantially shaded by mature trees. These trees add to the passive cooling of the house, however, they also block any potential energy generation from wind, as well as afternoon sun for solar PV. Being walking distance to downtown is a fair compromise for green living.

We took great care to preserve the historic characteristics of the house, particularly the durable elements of brick and wood. Original wood trims are restored and painted with Farrow and Ball zero VOC paint. The brick was spot cleaned by hand to maintain its glaze and weathered look. A new steel beam is concealed to support the front porch span.

Bushman rain barrels at the front and rear of the house have a total storage capacity of 1600L, which is enough to contain 90% of roof storm runoff through the year. Rain water is brought into the house and used for toilet flushing, as well as used to irrigate the substantial gardens in the back yard. This water use strategy is just one part of our goal to achieve a LEED for Homes Platinum rating.

In winter, the house is so well insulated and sealed that it can literally be heated by the excess heat from its human occupants and lighting on most days, or by what we call passive gains. Walls are insulated to R40, basement R24, basement slab R12, and roof R58. Comprehensive air sealing achieved a leakage reduction from 8.7 air changes per hour to 1.9 @50Pa.

Traditional lighting with high tech innards, most fixtures are fitted with dimmable LED bulbs on a controls system that uses photocells, occupancy and vacancy sensors to optimize usage. The house did not require an electrical service upgrade, the electrical load was reduced so substantially that the existing 100 amps were double what is needed.

New windows are triple glazed, super high performance fibreglass frames from Ontario manufacturer Inline. Averaging R7, each window has specialized coatings optimized for their orientation, minimizing summer heat gain while maximizing views and passive gains from the high angled summer sun.

The roof is insulated between the existing rafters with R30 spray foam, and has an additional 4 inches of rigid insulation over the entire exterior roof area, for a total R58. New Enviroshake shingles are good for the next 50 years, and are fully recyclable. Steel fascia is added to conceal the additional roof thickness and provide long term durability and recycle-ability, as well as lower embodied energy than aluminum.

The REEP House is a comprehensive showcase of green retrofit options, that is open to the public for tours, educational seminars, and self education on the myriad and affordable methods of reducing your energy use, expenses, and carbon footprint. As energy retrofit specialists, Whiting Design is proud to be behind this ground-breaking demonstration of home retrofit efficiency.