When designers Barb Kelsall and her husband Mark Broddle of Lighthouse Studios decided to build a duplex in Calgary’s historic neighbourhood of Ramsay, they knew they wanted the latest and greatest in energy efficiency and still keep some of the neighbourhood’s vintage charm.
The result is a stunning duplex that achieves the elusive LEED® Platinum rating for environmental responsibility while keeping elements of the established Ramsay neighbourhood.
What is LEED certification?
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized rating system that establishes standards in the construction and maintenance of buildings in an environmentally responsible way. This not only means energy efficiency, but also extends to water efficiency, the materials used, the toxicity of glues and paints, and even how the property is landscaped. LEED certification comes in four rankings: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
While LEED is mostly considered in the design and construction of commercial buildings, it’s also possible to achieve these standards in residential construction. For this duplex project, Barb and Mark ambitiously sought out the Platinum certification, the highest rating available.
Benefits of LEED certification
Is it really worth the effort to build a LEED-certified home? It depends on individual preference, of course, but there are some attractive reasons why you might consider it when building a new home.
There are arguable health benefits, since LEED factors in air quality into their certification process, meaning fewer allergens and toxic building materials, adhesives and paints. LEED homes are also air-balanced, meaning that each room will be consistently comfortable from one to the next.
Of course, there are financial incentives as well for attaining the LEED certification as well.
Because LEED requires the utmost in energy efficiency, the higher upfront costs of quality materials can often pay itself back in energy savings. In some cases, heating costs can be up to 50% less than non-LEED compliant homes.
Also, some municipalities and provinces offer tax credits for LEED-certified homes and energy-efficient upgrades as an incentive to be more environmentally responsible. Check with your local governments to see what kinds of incentives they offer. Some banks also offer discounted loans and mortgages for builders who are going to be LEED certified, so if you are considering it, speak to financial institutions about their green incentives as well.
LEED is a third-party certification, meaning that an inspector must approve every step of the build. Many people will pay more for a green home as the public becomes more environmentally conscious. This potentially has implications for the re-sale value of your LEED-compliant home.
All of these things went into consideration for the Ramsay duplex project. Barb is a certified LEED Green Associate, meaning she is qualified to design buildings that are environmentally responsible enough to qualify for the LEED certification.
Here’s are some tips Barb has for not just being LEED-compliant, but making any home greener. At Robinson Lighting & Bath Centre, we are able to help you choose the most efficient lighting and plumbing fixtures to help meet those requirements.
Insulate now, save later
Barb and Mark opted for thicker walls and doubled the insulation compared to standard construction, which can mean up to a 50 percent reduction in heating costs.
They also opted for triple-pane windows, which allowed them to include many large windows without sacrificing insulation value, plus the added benefit of reduced noise from outside.
All of these factors dramatically reduce energy cost in the long run, meaning the lifetime energy savings can be huge.
Keep it low usage
All plumbing fixtures in the home are low-flow, water-conserving models, or are adapted to restrict water usage. It used to be that eco-friendly plumbing versions reduced comfort or effectiveness, but newer versions of these fixtures are designed to be effective, only with less water used than their more traditional counterparts.
For example, the twin Riobel Zendo bathroom faucets are equipped with low-flow aerators that keep water consumption in mind and are specifically designed for LEED projects.
All light fixtures except one throughout the entire duplex are LED fixtures or have LED bulbs. This drastically reduced energy usage in the two units. The large and numerous windows also let in a lot of natural light to reduce energy usage during the daytime.
The numerous LED pot lights provide ample overhead light at a small fraction of the energy usage of halogen equivalents.
All appliances in the Ramsay duplex are also Energy Star compliant, so they meet the low usage standards of that organization.
Don’t sacrifice style for efficiency
While the LEED certification can be demanding, Barb and Mark’s Ramsay duplex shows that within the requirements, there is still a lot of room to be creative.
For this unit, they found inspiration from a vintage industrial look. The also drew inspiration from the “French gray” look, which is a vintage hue that has a calming effect. The “French gray” theme is carried throughout this unit of the duplex, including the floors, cabinets and closets, but is broken up with various accent and feature pieces, like the dark inset cabinets in the kitchen and dining area, as well as the recycled porcelain faux-brick tile wall that carries some of the charm of the old neighbourhood.
When choosing lighting fixtures, the couple knew they would be selling or renting out the unit, so they opted for choices that would appeal to a wide variety of tastes, while retaining subtle hints of an industrial style.
For added flair, the 12-foot island has an eating bar made of Douglas fir, made from a piece of a 150-year-old grain elevator.
What can you do?
If you’re building a new home, it might be worth considering the LEED certification, or at the very least, keep eco-friendly options in mind. If you have an existing home, you can always upgrade make energy-efficient upgrades to have a similar effect. To see the latest developments in green technology in plumbing and lighting without sacrificing style, call or visit your local Robinson Lighting & Bath Centre showroom to find out more.
This post was written in collaboration with Barb Kelsall of Lighthouse Studios in Calgary, who designed and oversaw the building of this project. Barb and her husband Mark Broddle specialize in designing eco-conscious homes while sticking to your individual wishlist. To find out more about Lighthouse Studios, visit their website at lighthousestudios.ca or find them on Houzz by clicking here.