LEEDing the way

Some people build model airplanes in their spare time, but Forest Pearson and his business partner, Jonathan Kerr, built an actual home. This Friday they are hosting an open house to show it off.

Some people build model airplanes in their spare time, but Forest Pearson and his business partner, Jonathan Kerr, built an actual home.

This Friday they are hosting an open house to show it off.

“It’s been something that I’ve wanted to do for a while,” said Pearson, who designed the building. “I think it’s come out better than I imagined.”

The duplex built by the two environmental consultants as a side project, is now the most energy efficient home in the territory.

“I was curious to see if we could raise the bar and do something different, but at the same time conventional,” said Kerr, a hydrological engineer by profession who worked as the general contractor on the project.

“Nothing in the house is special. It was all locally resourced, we just put a little more thought into how it all went together.”

It is also the first building in the Yukon to be constructed with a LEED certification.

LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a national program administered by the Canada Green Building Council that rates buildings for both energy efficiency and their overall environmental impact.

To get the certification the entire project was monitored by a LEED consultant from Vancouver, who audited the construction and trained a local inspector to be their eyes on the ground.

“It’s basically a way to certify that the claims of sustainability that the builder has made are in fact there,” said Pearson.

With all of the attention paid to energy efficiency, the cost to heat each of the 1,000-square-foot units is projected to be about $500 a year, or one tenth the cost of a conventional home.

With so much volatility in energy markets, the home’s efficiency acts as an insurance policy against price fluctuations, said Pearson.

Having the LEED certification also gives the homeowner a discount on their actual home insurance policy of up to 20 per cent.

“Insurance companies in Canada recognize LEED homes as being of a higher quality,” said Kerr. “It speaks volumes.”

The home is not just built well – it’s built to last.

“Our goal is to have this building last more than a hundred years,” said Pearson. “We’re seeing in Whitehorse or in the Yukon buildings failing in less than 20. That’s just not acceptable.”

“It’s a terrible thing to build a home that is just going to become a liability to the owner in ten years,” added Kerr.

The home is designed to not only endure decades, but also survive earthquakes.

“In a conventional building you’ll get out, but the building will probably be trashed,” said Pearson. “In the case of a large earthquake, this building is more likely to be serviceable”

All the durability and energy efficiency does come at a price, but not as much as one might think.

“If we had put in granite countertops that would have cost more,” said Pearson. “Part of the reason we wanted to do this project was to show that you can do a high-performance home like this, and it really doesn’t cost more”

For both the first-time builders and the experienced trades people they employed, there was a bit of a learning curve.

“Doing something nonconventional threw a lot of people for a loop,” said Kerr. “We could provide the why – the how was left up to them. Getting over that how was a bit of a challenge.”

Now that they’ve finished the project the pair don’t have plans to start another any time soon.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Kerr. “It’s kind of stressful when you start maxing out your personal lines of credit.”

They’ve already sold one of the units and expect to do okay with their investment, but it wasn’t all about money for them.

“I was looking to do something a little more gratifying,” said Kerr. “It’s one of those things you can walk away at the end of the day and say, ‘We built a part of a wall today.’”

It was also a chance to throw down the gauntlet and show what’s possible, said Pearson.

“There is no reason that we can’t be building these buildings everywhere.”

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com