Passive house builder strives to set precedents in South Glengarry

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Alex Liolios is certain he is the first to build a certified ‘classic’ passive house in South Glengarry, and he hopes to inspire others in the area.

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In his crafting career to date, Liolios, owner of ZERO Energy Homes, has built a non-passive conventional house and a house with passive elements.

Its current construction will be entirely passive. This essentially means that it will be built in a way that reduces energy requirements and costs by around 90%. This is achieved simply by using different building techniques and materials that deal with water and air circulation, such as insulation and airtight windows and doors.

Liolios said he feels today’s consumers and homebuilders are too myopic with their vision and spending. He said he’s heard builders say they’ve been taking the same non-passive approach for over 30 years now. He said that if there is no change, it is an indication of no growth or improvement.

“For the construction industry to change and to change people’s minds, there’s a huge educational theme that has to come into play,” Liolios said.

Jeremiah Point, an Akwesasne-based mechanical engineer with Point Engineering, agrees and supports Liolios on his passive house building journey. Point sits on the board of Passive House Canada and began learning about the green building style about four years ago. He believes passive house standards will be incorporated into the Ontario Building Code in the future, looking west, where Richmond, B.C. now sets some passive requirements that home builders must respect.

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“We build (insufficient) buildings and keep doing it again and again…we still think there has to be solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal, all these expensive technologies to solve our problems with buildings. But… it’s very boring and very simple to just add more insulation, make it more airtight and invest in those windows and doors,” Point said, pointing out other things that make a house passive on the South Glengarry site.

Point believes there is a “plus” passive house somewhere in the region, meaning it goes beyond the typical requirements and incorporates solar panels and wind turbines to generate all the necessary energy consumption, essentially off-grid.

“It’s just about building differently and thinking about it differently,” Point said. “Once people experience the difference in a passive house… (conventional houses) aren’t as good.”

Brock Wilson, of Wilson Architectural Design Inc. and professor at Algonquin College, also supports Liolios and his vision.

He said that many studies indicate that passive houses have a high added value, considering them more desirable in the real estate market. He also said that studies show mental health benefits with passive building as they are superior in terms of indoor air quality, temperature constancy and solar orientation design invoking natural light in more of spaces.

In the near future, Liolios plans to work on personal projects, but has attracted interest from clients across Ontario and Quebec. He hopes to grow organically and not rush into builds, with the goal of continuing to train in passive techniques.

“Building to code is just legal, but so poor…considering the climate we live in,” Liolios said.

“We’re trying to make a difference,” Wilson said.

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