Edmonton green building gets $481,000 grant

The Communitas Group has received a $481,000 federal research grant to build energy-efficient, affordable housing in Edmonton.

The Communitas Group has received a $481,000 federal research grant to build energy-efficient, affordable housing in Edmonton.

The money will help Communitas find ways to make Station Pointe, a 200-unit co-op condominium block planned for near the Belvedere LRT station, a groundbreaking experiment in affordable sustainability.

"It's an incredible opportunity," said Brian Scott, vice-president of the Communitas Group.

Communitas hopes to improve on current sustainable building practices, with a target of a 75-per-cent reduction of energy use when compared to in traditional buildings.

Construction will begin after research into building techniques is complete, likely in 2011.

Some of the grant will be used to research what's needed to eliminate the need for a furnace.

"We can actually perhaps heat these homes with maybe just a small baseboard radiant heater," Scott said.

Communitas also plans to keep the building off the city sewer system by building a water treatment plant for the building.

"We would actually process it all on site, using almost like a greenhouse and a series of tanks," Scott said. "Some tanks have air-breathing-type plants, some have fish in them, some have snails in them, and so you're basically going through a progressive series of, if you will, organic filters."

Though provincial standards won't allow it, the water will be clean enough to drink at the end of the treatment process, he said.

"At the last tank, you could literally dip a glass in the water and drink it and be no worse off than drinking stream water."

Communitas is the first of six winning projects to get federal research money through the Equilibrium Communities Initiative, which provides financial assistance for technical work and promotion of development projects that will improve sustainable building practices. Capital construction costs aren't covered.

"Building sustainable communities that use clean energy technologies and energy-efficient designs will help create high-quality jobs for Canadian while protecting and preserving our environment," Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis said in a news release about the grant.