Nova Scotia

Truro subsidized housing unit to be turned into 'passive house'

The town of Truro will soon have one of the most energy efficient subsidized homes in Nova Scotia thanks to a pilot project launched by the local housing authority.

Similar 'passive house' in Hubley heated for less than $200 a year

This passive house in Hubley, Nova Scotia has nearly a metre of insulation in the attic. (CBC)

The town of Truro will soon have one of the most energy efficient subsidized homes in Nova Scotia thanks to a pilot project launched by the local housing authority.

Housing Nova Scotia aiming to build what is called a "passive house" — a property built to be as energy efficient as possible.

Natalie Leonard is a passive house consultant and says one such home is already built in the community of Hubley.

The attic has nearly a metre of insulation and the doors are air tight. All of the windows face the sunny side of the house to absorb as much heat and natural light as possible.

"The total wall thickness is about 16 inches," Leonard said. "So it's like wearing a down parka in the winter. That's one of the really important features, the super insulation of the house."

The houses cost more to build but are cheaper to maintain in the long run.

The Hubley house has two-storeys, four bedrooms and 2,100 square feet.

"This house will heat for less than $200 a year, in energy costs," Leonard said.

That caught the attention of Housing Nova Scotia. Its property in Truro doesn't come close to passive house standards, but it soon will according to CEO Dan Troke.

"We saw an opportunity to really go and demonstrate that really highly efficient, duplex in this case, can be built within a residential neighbourhood at a standard that's not traditionally used in Nova Scotia," he said.

The pilot project could mean a whole new way of thinking about subsidized housing.

Usually, standard techniques are used for low-income homes, but building highly-efficient houses could save money in the long term.

Housing Nova Scotia pays to heat thousands of units across the province and the cost of fuel is on the rise.

"From a perspective of cost, we see this as actually being a unit that that we could see the overall utility costs as low as $350 to $400 a year," Troke said. "You're talking about substantially reducing the cost to operate a unit because you thoughtfully built all those features in up front."

Construction should start on the new home in the next few months. By the end of the year, Housing Nova Scotia will have its very first passive home, ready for tenants.

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