Alberta

Rural Routes to Climate Solutions facilitating education for Alberta producers

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A Central Alberta based project is giving local farmers and agricultural producers the opportunity to further their education – all without needing to leave their communities.  

The project’s main topic of conversation? Climate solutions that can benefit Alberta farms and ranches. 

We find that there’s not really a space for agricultural producers to talk about climate issues as it relates to agriculture, so we are trying to hold that space for them
— Derek Leahy, director of Rural Routes.

Rural Routes to Climate Solutions– a project with the Stettler Learning Centre– is using a hands-on approach to provide opportunities for agricultural producers to explore about the benefits of implementing climate solutions in their day-to-day business activities.

Now a year into the project, Rural Routes facilitates workshops and field days, bringing in different experts and presenters in the climate solutions and agricultural space. Attendees also have the chance to talk one-on-one with presenters after the conclusion of the events. 

In addition, Leahy has found their podcast series is one of the best ways to disseminate information to producers across the province. 

“Podcasts are a great way to provide access to the resources,” said Leahy. “They give the project some longevity, because people can listen to them whenever they want to.” 

Adopting climate solutions

Agriculture may be one of the sectors most impacted by a changing climate, affecting growing season length and harvest timing, pollinators and pests. On the other hand, agriculture could be a significant lever for reducing emissions, since it is a natural way to store carbon.

According to Leahy, one of the most effective climate solution methods for Alberta farms is soil carbon sequestration – a process through which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and absorbed into the soil, decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

Agricultural producers can activate and maintain the process by minimizing soil disturbance through reduced tillage methods and not overgrazing pasture land.  

While there is an environmental payoff to implementing this method, soil carbon sequestration could also have economic benefits for Alberta producers. 

“Carbon is a key element in soil health and fertility,” said Leahy. “The more you have in the ground, the better your land is doing. In theory, that should result in more productive farms and better yields.” 

Another popular discussion topic at Rural Routes is on-farm solar and energy efficiency – adopting energy-efficient technologies that could have a long-term impact on the climate. 

Leahy said because both solar and wind are prevalent in Alberta, agricultural producers could harness those elements to minimize their environmental impact and streamline some of the costs associated with operating a ranch or farm. 

For example, large-scale dairy operations could install solar energy systems, which would make them less reliant on fluctuations in the energy market and result in a more efficient and cost-effective farm, said Leahy. 

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Changing the narrative around climate solutions  

For Leahy, providing producers with educational resources is one of the ways to empower rural communities, and begin to change the narrative surrounding farmers and the climate. 

“Producers are so used to hearing people say that agriculture is bad and is destroying our planet, but in reality, the land is everything in agriculture,” said Leahy. “There is a connection to the climate.”

He said while there are many agricultural organizations that talk about ecology, diversity and soil health, there are few that create conversations explicitly around climate solutions. Rural Routes provides that space. 

Currently, their primary audience is smaller-scale farmers, but Leahy said Rural Routes plans to engage more with the industry, talking with commodity groups and developing partnerships with some of the large-scale agricultural operations in Alberta. 

“We are all pushing for the same thing,” said Leahy. “We want what’s best for the land, we’re just coming at it from a different direction.” 


For more information on how to undertake your own energy efficiency project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.

Summit Nanotech using miniscule technology to effect big change

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Summit Nanotech using miniscule technology to effect big change

Many people talk about making the world a better place; Amanda Hall is doing it.

Hall is the co-founder and CEO of Summit Nanotech, a company in Alberta using advances in nanotechnology to create and implement clean solutions for industrial processes. 

“Our mission is to green up the energy industry by using nanoscience,” said Hall. “When you look at processes through the scope of quantum physics — small-scale physics — it can solve a lot of the problems we see in industry today.”

“I needed to stop waiting for people to make the changes I wanted to see,” she said. “I decided I wanted to take on that role myself.”
— Amanda Hall, CEO of Summit Nanotech

Hall is a geophysicist by trade, with eight years of experience in the oil and gas industry, four in the mining industry and an additional four spent in an industrial laboratory at a sugar refinery.

Those experiences, coupled with her 12 years of post-secondary education, put her in a prime position to launch Summit Nanotech with co-founder Jason Hendrick 10 months ago.

“I needed to stop waiting for people to make the changes I wanted to see,” she said. “I decided I wanted to take on that role myself.”

Summit Nanotech uses nanotechnology — quantum mechanical technology that deals with materials at the atomic level — to address some of the world’s most pressing energy and environmental concerns. Currently, their focus is on developing the greenest lithium-ion resource extraction method in the world.

Sustainable lithium extraction

According to Hall, the demand for lithium is about to skyrocket. Their new extraction method can be used to create an inexpensive and sustainable source of lithium for batteries used in portable devices, mobile gadgets and electric vehicles — the driving force behind the demand.

“Battery storage will play a huge part in having a renewable energy future,” said Hall.

Traditionally, extracting lithium from brine water requires high energy and chemically intensive processes. Hall said they want to use nanoscience to perform the extraction process more gently and efficiently, to reduce environmental contaminants and greenhouse gases.

“At the end of the day, our process is different from traditional extraction methods, because we use less energy, fewer chemicals, no fresh water and we have higher yield at the end, so our operation costs per tonne are better,” said Hall.

Hall said while this project is still in the development phase, many companies are interested in their technology, which will mainly be provided as a clean extraction solution to mines who are already processing lithium.

This technology can also be beneficial to oil and gas companies, said Hall, who is currently working with a few other companies in Alberta to map lithium resources in the province.

Since brine water is often a by-product of pumped oil, lithium extraction can also function as a secondary revenue stream for oil and gas. In turn, these oil and gas companies can provide a resource for battery technology that supports renewable energy storage.

The future of nanotechnology

Although less than a year old, Summit Nanotech is recognized as a leader in the space.

Hall, identified as a top female innovator in Canada, was named a finalist in the Women in Cleantech Challenge in September 2018. Summit Nanotech was awarded $800,000 and the opportunity to work closely with advisors and researchers from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and MaRS, a Toronto-based business incubator.

“Being chosen as a finalist in the Women in Cleantech Challenge early on really helped put wheels to the company, opened doors and exposed us to great opportunities,” said Hall. “I hope this doesn’t sound bold, but it just feels like we are unstoppable right now.”

Once Summit Nanotech achieves sustainable lithium extraction, they plan to use the technology to go after other metal ions and work closely with water purification companies.

“This is a platform technology so we can pivot and employ it in many different fields,” said Hall. “We are just getting started.”


For more information on how to undertake your own clean tech project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.

Canmore Solar Initiative: Bringing renewable energy to Alberta’s Bow Valley

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Canmore Solar Initiative: bringing renewable energy to Alberta’s Bow Valley

Mountains, glacier-fed lakes, wildlife … and solar panels?

Solar panels have been popping up on many Canmore homes over the last few years, thanks in part to Canmore’s Solar Incentive Program.

“This is something tangible that homeowners can do,” said Lori Rissling Wynn, sustainability coordinator for the Town of Canmore. “A lot of times we feel we don’t have a lot of control in these choices, but a person absolutely does.”

Now in its fifth year, the program provides an opportunity for people in the community to invest in renewable energy by offering a financial incentive to residents and businesses to help offset the cost of purchasing and installing a solar system.

There were 15 solar incentives of $1,000 available in 2019, and recipients – chosen by a lottery – were notified in March. Funds for the program are identified annually in the town’s operating budget for “greenhouse gas mitigation activities.”

Rissling Wynn said the program is often oversubscribed. This year, 25 people submitted applications.

“It demonstrates the appetite the community has for the program,” said Rissling Wynn, who is responsible for administering the program, processing applications, managing the lottery and corresponding with successful recipients. “People are interested in contributing to the energy transition.”

For many individuals though, the upfront capital is one of the major barriers to solar installation; the Canmore Solar Initiative is meant to help reduce that barrier.

Even with the financial incentive, Rissling Wynn said they recognize a solar panel installation is a big economic decision, and families need to decide whether a solar system is the right fit for their home. But it’s an over-simplification to say that a solar panel system is too expensive as an investment for most homes.

“If you look at a solar panel system as an appliance that you are putting on your home, what other appliance pays you back? Eventually this will be paying you back dividends.”

Depending on the size of the system, it takes eight to 10 years to completely recover the capital cost, but most get at least a portion of their bills covered within the first year.

Moreover, installing a solar panel system on their home tends to have ripple effect — residents become increasing mindful about the amount of energy they use on a daily basis, like turning off lights and running the dishwasher during the day when the panels are generating power. By monitoring energy production versus household consumption, families can reduce energy costs by consuming power when the solar installation is producing energy.

“It’s important that we aren’t just telling people to do this, we are doing it ourselves, too.”
— Lori Rissling Wynn, on the role municipalities play to encourage residential solar installations

The solar energy investment doesn’t just benefit the homeowner. According to Rissling Wynn, the number of solar installers working in the valley has tripled since the initiative first started in Canmore, spurring the green economy and increasing employment opportunities.

Further, the increase in solar installations around town have helped to debunk the myth that solar energy was not possible in the valley. 

A report, commissioned by the Town of Canmore to evaluate the solar potential of the community, found that rooftop geometry and design has significantly more impact on solar potential than mountain shading and location within the valley. This bodes well for new residential developments in the community.

It’s not just residents and local businesses looking for opportunities to offset their energy usage.

“It’s important that we aren’t just telling people to do this,” said Rissling Wynn. “We are doing it ourselves, too,”

Within the next two years, Canmore will add five new solar panel installations to their municipal buildings, on top of the systems currently in operation, which include the solar photovoltaic systems installed on the roofs of the Civic Centre and Waste Management Centre. The town is also looking for opportunities for ground-mounted solar to help offset corporate energy usage.

“We are recognizing that the grid needs to be maintained, and renewable energy needs to be a part of that mix,” said Rissling Wynn.


For more information on how to undertake your own renewables project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.

Students Accelerating Action: Captain Nichola Goddard School Green Commuting Challenge

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Students Accelerating Action: Captain Nichola Goddard School Green Commuting Challenge

Captain Nichola Goddard School in northwest Calgary was built for grades 5 to 9 as a community school, meaning that none of its students had to bus in from outside its catchment area. But despite the fact that nearly all the students lived within two kilometers, many of them were still being driven by their parents. Since the school wasn’t built with motor traffic in mind, it was plagued with congestion, unsafe driving, idling cars and stressed students late for class.

A group of students and teachers at the school decided to change the way students got there. From this, the Green Commuting Challenge was born. The program incentivized walking and cycling for students. It combines teaching students about their ecological footprint with a reward system for those who walk or bike to and from school, including prizes, such as pizza and movie tickets. The challenge makes it clear that everyone can participate and aim for a reward, not just the most devoted human-powered commuters.

Students won’t make lifestyle changes because of what [teachers] tell them. They’ll make lifestyle changes because of what their peers tell them.
— Debbie Rheinstein, Teacher at Nichola Goddard School

The program also makes it easier for younger students to participate, with “Green Commuting Hubs” – places around the community where students meet to walk together under the supervision of a Grade 9 student. By having older students direct and promote the project, the team was able to take advantage of relationships that already existed between students.

“As teachers, we can say things until we’re blue in the face, but students won’t make lifestyle changes because of what we tell them. They’ll make lifestyle changes because of what their peers tell them,” said Debbie Rheinstein, one of the teachers behind the program.

The program is wildly successful. Five years after its inception, Rheinstein saw students approaching staff at the beginning of the year asking about being involved before the Challenge was even advertised to them. It had become a part of the student culture at Nichola Goddard.

Much of the Green Commuting Challenge is administered by a group of Grade 9 students called the Green Commuting Leadership Team. In addition to planning, participating in and presenting the program at the Calgary Mayor’s Environment Expo, these students are instrumental in spreading the culture of environmentalism throughout the school.

Students grew the program among their peers and also among their teachers. They started, “car-free days,” to challenge teachers to join the Green Community Challenge. Rheinstein jokes the teachers felt peer-pressured by the students.

This initiative was successful because of the engagement and leadership of the students at the school. They took a small program and grew it into school-wide action, showcasing the tremendous impact students can have on the community around them.


This story was written in collaboration with The Green Medium.

For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

A climate leadership program for the rest of us

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A climate leadership program for the rest of us

“I want to make a difference: I can’t make a climate treaty, I already compost … what’s in between?”

It’s a sentiment Mike Byerley hears often: More and more people want to get involved in climate action, but don’t know where to start.

Byerley is the director of programming with the Regeneration Learning Society, and runs the annual Alberta Climate Leadership Program.

“The program is for people outside the climate enterprise,” said Byerley, a geologist by training who worked in the Alberta oil patch for 13 years. “They are not activists, they are not climate scientists, they are not working in the policy sector or government.

“The people in the program are basically the 85 per cent of people excluded from participation on climate change.”

The five-month program, which is spread over five weekends, aims to help Alberta residents gain an understanding of the systemic nature of climate change and then apply that understanding to their own situations.

It’s our belief that the people closest to the system
are not the best to change the system.

“It’s our belief that the people closest to the system are not the best to change the system,” he said.

Each year the program accepts 25 participants over the age of 25 who are more established in their professional lives, understand the context in which they are working, and are on a leadership track. Sometimes these are people who have acquired the role of “climate person” or “environmental liaison” at their current jobs.

For example, the program’s alumni include a National Energy Board employee who manages stakeholder relationships with indigenous communities, a climate coordinator for a local governance council, as well as people from the regulatory sector and from oil and gas companies.

“They have the same cares and concerns and interests,” said Byerley, particularly people working in the oil and gas sector, “and they don’t feel like they can do anything.”

The program includes five weekend retreats in different locations (Calgary, Edmonton, Kananaskis and Red Deer). While it doesn’t have an academic focus, the program does begin with some classroom theory on economics, the petro-state, neoliberalism, and how justice affects social change.

“If you are working to change the world, people need to understand what you are asking and be interested in what you are asking,” said Byerley.

Participants then move on to develop their own projects, learning how to design, test and operationalize ideas.

Byerley said more than half of the participants carry their projects through to the end, even after they’ve completed the course. Some of the projects started during the program have led to an oil field company setting up a $2 million green tech fund, a food waste and surplus food recovery program, and an unlikely partnership between a solar energy company and an immigration resettlement worker doing home energy audits.

In addition to the theory and project work, a third aspect of the program is peer-based learning, where participants have the chance to work in groups and learn from each other.

“[We want people] saying lots of things out loud, because that changes your relationship to an idea,” said Byerley.

At the end of the five-month program, the intent is for participants to have the tools, skills and knowledge to add a climate change twist to the work they are already doing.

“We’re not asking people to do new work, we are asking people to add to their work,” said Byerley. “No one wants to do something new, but they don’t mind doing a little more.”

Applications are open until Feb. 25.

Learn more about the Alberta Climate Leadership Program here

For more information on clean tech projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Lithium Producer in Central Alberta Aims for Net-Zero Facility

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Lithium Producer in Central Alberta Aims for Net-Zero Facility

Chris Doornbos has always been interested in energy systems, but it was hard to find opportunities in clean energy for geologists like him. Until he started thinking about lithium.

Lithium – soft, silvery-white alkali metal, similar to potassium or sodium – is one of the main components of batteries, and a crucial resource for the energy storage industry.

In 2014, Chris began looking for lithium projects, first in South America, which supplies about 75 per cent of the world’s lithium, as well as in the U.S. and Australia. Then, he came across a report from the Government of Alberta about lithium, and discovered the availability of an unexplored, underappreciated asset right in his own backyard.

Decentralized energy is the future, and that will need efficient batteries.
— Chris Doornbos

“The ground wasn’t owned by anyone, so we went in and picked it up,” said Doornbos, who went on to found a lithium development company, now known as E3 Metals Corp, where he is the CEO. “We have literally developed this project from nothing.”

The Leduc Formation was first explored for oil and gas in the 1940s and led to the oil rush in central Alberta. Over the past 70 years, more than 3,000 wells have been drilled in the area. Because of the existing wells – as well as collaborative relationships with other companies working in Leduc Formation reservoirs – no further drilling or land disturbance has been needed for E3 Metals to develop their lithium project.

“As a mineral company, the biggest expense you have is drilling and we haven’t needed to do that,” said Doornbos.

Based on their sampling, the company estimates there is 6.7 million tonnes of lithium in the reservoirs of the Leduc Formation, making it one of the largest sources of lithium in the world.

The standard process for extracting and producing lithium relies on huge evaporation ponds, taking 18 to 24 months to concentrate lithium to a point where it can be refined. What makes E3 Metals unique is that, using a chemical filter process called Ion Exchange, they have developed a method to concentrate lithium in only three hours. Not only is it fast, it is also likely inexpensive compared to the evaporation process, and removes 99 per cent of the impurities found in lithium brine.

In addition to speed, the lithium brine extracted is hot, and could be used to produce geothermal power to run the process. E3 Metals hopes to make their facility net-zero, and in doing so create the an environmentally friendly source of lithium.

“We have the potential to be a near zero-greenhouse-gas lithium producer,” said Doornbos.

The company is still in the development stage, to date achieving a 20x concentration in lithium with their process. They hope to soon have a demonstration of this process and then plan to build a pilot plant facility in the field this year.

With an increase in electric vehicles and energy storage, global lithium demand is expected to triple by 2025.

“Decentralized energy is the future,” said Doornbos. “And that will need efficient batteries.”


Learn more about E3 Metals Corp here.

For more information on clean tech projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Geothermal Innovation in Alberta

Geothermal innovation in Alberta

The world’s first geothermal power plant was completed in 1914 in Italy. Fast forward more than 100 years, and Canada still does not have a single large-scale geothermal facility. Alberta company Terrapin hopes to change that.

Geothermal energy is a form of renewable energy harnessed from converting heat stored deep underground into electricity. Terrapin plans to build an eight-megawatt geothermal power generation facility near Hinton, Alta.

Sean Collins has worked in sustainable energy for about a decade, beginning with co-founding Student Energy – a global non-profit energy organization – and working for clean-tech companies in the province. After the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan was released in late 2015, Collins said he knew the electricity sector would have to change significantly following the coal phase-out. He founded Terrapin, a company focused on transforming waste heat and geothermal heat into usable energy. Now, he is the company’s president.

By phasing out coal, more renewable energy will be needed to make up for the gap in electricity supply and demand. Much of Alberta’s renewable energy will come from wind and solar power, which are intermittent, only producing electricity when the wind is blowing or when the sun is shining. One of the advantages of coal is that it can produce electricity all of the time. An advantage of geothermal is that it too can produce electricity on demand.

There’s not much difference between drilling an oil well and drilling a geothermal well
— Sean Collins

In principle geothermal seems straightforward, but there are at least 27 different technologies used to transform heat to electricity. Depending on the situation and heat source, some technologies perform better than others. Terrapin’s role is bringing expertise and understanding to which solutions are ideal.

Collins sees geothermal as a natural fit for Alberta.

“There’s not much difference between drilling an oil well and drilling a geothermal well,” he said, explaining Alberta has a lot of expertise in building massive facilities, such as billion-dollar oil and gas refineries, and these skills are easily transferable to building large-scale geothermal facilities.

Many predictions on global energy show oil and gas will still play a role 30 years from now, but there will be a massive increase in renewables. Collins considers this balance of energy sources as crucial. He says creating sustainable electricity will allow our oil and gas to be used most effectively, instead of for nearly everything as it has been for decades.

The price on carbon pollution has created an additional focus on renewable energy innovation.

“Alberta may be building our last pipeline,” said Collins. “We need to dig in and see how we play in the new world.”

To achieve this shift to renewable electricity, he says Alberta needs to be more entrepreneurial and ambitious.

“We as a province need to raise our risk factor.”


Learn more about Terrapin here.

For more information on clean tech projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

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Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

At Hazeldean Elementary School in Edmonton, Grade 5 students created an energy efficiency program through the Innovative Elementary Program. The students were able reduce the energy consumption and cost of lighting at their school and teach other students and teachers about energy efficiency.

“Elementary kids are often overlooked about their ability to make changes and advocate to the things that they care about,” said Grade 5 teacher James Stuart, who manages the Innovate Elementary Program at Hazeldean. This project is one of many ways students have demonstrated the impact they can have in their school community.

They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference. [There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.
— James Stuart

The first step was to learn about electricity, energy efficiency and light bulbs. Stuart along with some energy experts taught the students about different kinds of light bulbs and how much energy is used for each. They also learned about electricity, how it is produced in Alberta and the environmental impacts of the different types of production.

Next, students used their new knowledge to calculate their school’s electricity consumption by determining the types and consumption of light bulbs, and the number of each type of bulb throughout the building. From there, they monitored how many lights were on in each classroom, checking in at various times of the day to determine when classes were in session, when they were empty, and at the end of the day.

After collecting data, the students had to decide how they would present it. To make their information accessible to everyone, including the youngest students, they used made posters with photos and simple info boxes to teach their peers about the energy consumption of objects in their classroom. They included images of smart boards, desktop computers and lights with the amount of energy each consumed. The posters were distributed throughout the school.

The students also decided to create a contest for the classroom who was able to reduce their lighting energy consumption by the greatest amount. Using the information they had about each room’s energy consumption, they created a poster for each classroom showing its energy consumption. They continued to monitor the energy consumption of each classroom at random times until the end of the contest, with the winners earning hot chocolate made from the students’ self-made solar oven.

At the end of the lighting audit the Grade 5 group presented their findings during the school’s morning announcements. Over that time, they saw a reduction of 40 kWh. That is the equivalent of a 43-inch’ plasma TV running 32 hours a week for a month.

Through this project the students in Stuart’s Grade 5 classroom educated themselves, creatively engaged their school on the topic of energy efficiency, and were able to make changes in their school’s lighting electricity consumption.

“They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference,” said Stuart. “[There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.”


For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Calgary passive house has no furnace, good to -30

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Calgary passive house has no furnace, good to -30

When you step into the Brookfield Symons Gate Passive House in Calgary, Alta., the front door closes with a sound that makes you feel like you have just entered an airtight vault. And then you are greeted by the sounds of silence.

The sounds of the outside world vanish within the heavily insulated walls of this gorgeous, 2,400 square home. You don’t even hear the hum of a fan, because there’s no furnace.

The walls are solid cross-laminated wood, the basement floor feels like it’s heated, and the windows are triple-glazed energy-efficient Austrian models that tilt and swing open.

This is the Tesla of passive homes

“Passive house takes advantage of one of the most abundant resources that Alberta has, which is the sun,” says Doug Owens, senior director of strategic development and regulatory affairs with Brookfield Residential, North America’s sixth largest developer.

This ultra-efficient house uses 90 per cent less energy than a conventional home. An eight-kilowatt solar system on the roof provides nearly all of the energy required to power and heat the home. It has no gas connection.

“And the giant window in the middle is actually the furnace for the house,” says Owens, pointing to the massive, south-facing window that lets the passive solar heat stream in. The window’s R7-rated triple glazing helps trap the warmth inside.

“Air tightness is critical,” says Owens, but even though this home is rated as super airtight–just 0.5 air exchanges per hour–it gets plenty of fresh, clean, filtered air.

Instead of a furnace, the home has a heat recovery ventilator—a fancy name for an air exchange system that recovers 86 per cent of the heat from the outgoing air. Built into the ventilation system is a 3,000-watt electric heater—but it only kicks in on the coldest, darkest days of winter.

This Zender ventilator is actually called an energy recovery ventilator because it also has an active bypass system that stops scavenging warm air on hot summer days, helping cool the home.

When you head downstairs, most people ask if the floor is heated—it has eight inches of insulation beneath it and it feels quite warm. The mechanical room is nearly empty, with just the air exchange system and a super energy efficient electric water heater.

Sixteen-inch walls – No furnace!

This minimalistic system is made possible thanks to out-of-this-world levels of insulation in the home.

“It’s incredibly well insulated,” explains Owens. “The windows are R7 and typical windows are about R2; the wall systems are R45 compared to an effective R18 that is required, and the roof system is R55 compared to a cathedral ceiling which we’re required to have R10.”

Add the thickly insulated basement floor, and you have an unbroken envelope of insulation blanketing the home.

Brookfield viewed the Symons Passive House as a chance to innovate. You could use thick double-stud walls for the insulation, but Dean Guidolin (design manager at Brookfield) says they opted to use solid cross-laminated timber (CLT). The custom walls were built in a special panelization factory in Germany.

Matt Arsenault of Sawback Builders shows the super-insulated 16-inch wall system. Photo David Dodge, GreenEnergyFutures.ca

Solid wood walls

Brookfield designer Dean Guidolin says CLT is environmentally friendly. Behind him is the large window that is a key part of the passive house design. Photo David Dodge, GreenEnergyFutures.ca

CLT is a great, sustainable resource, says Guidolin. “The wood fiberboard on the outside is a byproduct of the manufacturing process for the CLT. Ultimately you get another good environmental story out of that.”

Matt Arsenault, president of Sawbuck Builders (the company that assembled this unique home) describes the CLT system in detail. “It is four inches thick timber that’s been glued and laminated together and it creates the structure of the wall,” says Arsenault. Then add 9.5 inches of solid wood fiber insulation and another 1.5-inch layer of wood-based insulation and you have 16-inch thick walls that lose almost no heat.

Arsenault says the pre-built walls, floors, and ceilings came in a sea container along with some IKEA-like instructions in German to put it all together.

“I learned a lot about how the energy loss happens in a typical house, through air leakage and things like that. And this method of construction really eliminates a lot of the opportunity for outside cold air to come in and cool down the house,” says Arsenault.

Beautiful research – into an energy efficient future

Master bedroom in the Symonds Passive House. Photo David Dodge, GreenEnergyFutures.ca

Owens says Brookfield didn’t aim for an inexpensive passive home, but rather chose to explore new systems and build a truly great home. “I was just thrilled to see people walk in, and when they open it open the door their jaw drops at how beautiful the home is,” says Owens.

Before tackling the project, Owens himself took a course in passive house building. He believes code changes are coming, and homes may have to be net-zero-ready as early as 2030. He wants to keep Brookfield ahead of the trend.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s Alberta, Canada or North America,” says Owens. “Globally, there’s a conversation around energy efficiency, resiliency, and conservation. There’s a tremendous amount of momentum behind it.”

Push for quality and performance

The components of this solid CLT home were built in a panelization factory. Photo Brookfield Residential

Owens says public attitudes are also pushing the shift. “I think people are starting to think about the environment more.” Where yesterday’s customers may have been fixated on granite counters and hardwood floors, many home buyers today have questions about energy efficiency.

Brookfield’s first passive home was not cheap to build, but Owens says they learned a lot. He believes the move toward prefabrication will help ease labour shortages, increase quality, and meet higher efficiency standards.

“I think that’s really going to drive down prices and then they will become commonplace,” says Owens.

If you think this home would be a sight to see, we have good news: you can see it. “It’s going to open through 2019 for booked tours,” says Owens. “We’re going to try to have it open the first Friday of every month. We want to get as many professionals, industry partners, and government folks through.”

Brookfield clearly aims to be an active force in passive technology.

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This story was originally published on Green Energy Futures.

Learn more about Brookfield’s passive house, here.

For more information on energy efficiency in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead

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Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead

Project Footprint is a program aimed at young newcomers to Canada, offering environmental programming at a school and housing development in Calgary. The program, run by the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA), combines its programming and expertise to reach girls aged nine to 13 with environmental sustainability content.

Project Footprint, now in its third year, came about as a way to encourage and engage young immigrant girls in the global conversation about the environment and climate change, said Project Footprint’s program coordinator Amarjit Parmar.

We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors
— Amarjit Parmar

“We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors,” said Parmar.

 There are two parts to the program: regular weekly events with guest speakers, which focus on a wide range of environmental and sustainability topics. In addition, a mentorship program is held twice a month and connects the Project Footprint participants with older students, who work together to create and run sustainability projects.

Project Footprint participants also share their work with their community and peers. At CIWA’s annual youth forum the girls taught participants how to make reusable plastic wrap replacement using beeswax, coconut oil and fabric. Another year they flexed their green thumbs, teaching participants about gardening.

 The team mentorship projects vary each year depending on the interests of the participants. In the past, the young girls have run recycling programs, worked to reduce their plastic waste, and started an upcycling project to turn used clothing into new items.  

 “It was fantastic to see,” said Parmar about the upcycling project, which ended with a grand finale fashion show at school to show off the clothing they had redesigned. “The kids were so creative – they took shirts and made them into handbags.”

 The creativity and passion put into their projects may be fueled by the freedom and ownership they have. Parmar said the projects are based entirely on what the girls want to do, from conception to execution, while the youth mentors are there to support the implementation of the ideas and the creativity.

 “We are a girl’s program at heart,” said Parmar. “So self-confidence, sense of belonging and encouraging leadership is all there.”


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