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About Glasswing

Matt Johnston and Grace Pontes, along with their two children and two family pets, have been living in a motorhome for the past eight months.

The living space is tight and not always comfortable but for the Kelowna couple, it’s a means to an end as they work to build their dream home. And they’re hoping that by mid-December, they’ll be living the dream.

“We plan to be inside by December 15. That said, there’s still so much work to do before we get there,” explains Pontes.

A first for the area

The couple is not building your typical home. Rather, theirs will be the first LEED® home in Kelowna — a home that uses less energy, water and natural resources, creates less waste and overall, will minimize their impact on the environment. And while they originally felt they could achieve LEED® Silver, Pontes says they are actually on target to achieving LEED® Gold standard.

Glasswing also presents an opportunity for Matt to build on his expertise an architect and LEED® accredited professional. By applying these standards to his own home, he has the freedom and flexibility to discover what measures and materials works best to meet the LEED® standards, at the most reasonable cost. This is valuable insight he can build into designs for his clients.

“This is in line with our philosophy. We’re very aware of the environment and particularly in Kelowna, where we live in a semi-arid climate,” Pontes says. “Matt and I had a vision of creating a residence that would combine the needs of our family with our passions for sustainability, design and development.”

Breaking new ground on an old lot

Pontes says the idea to demolish the existing 1960’s bi-level and build their own energy-efficient home came years ago, when she first saw the large 120×120 lot. She felt it had so much potential, but the existing home needed extensive upgrades to meet today’s energy efficiency standards.

Work began on their new 4,200 square-foot, five bedroom home after they removed the existing home in the spring — it was sold on Castanet and the original concrete foundation recycled. In fact, they will achieve additional LEED® innovation credits because they were able to recycle 95 per cent of the former home.

Building to LEED® Certification

There are many rigorous details that go into achieving a LEED® certification, including home size, innovation in design, energy and water efficiency, types of materials and resources, landscaping, and building waste. Pontes says they even needed to specify in the plans a particular spot inside the home for boots and shoes.

“It’s very, very detailed. Everyone working on the project got together to determine what needed to be done and how it was going to get done to meet the standards. The process has been amazing.”

Energy efficient features

They looked at many different energy-efficient technologies, particularly in the building envelope and heating and cooling design and, like any homeowner, had to take cost-effectiveness into consideration.

“There are some things we can’t do because of budget. That said, we’re considering a variety of technologies to determine which ones are cost effective and what combination will meet the standards. We have to determine what makes sense and if the technology where it needs to be,” she adds.

As an example, they are installing a heat recovery ventilation (HRV) system. This is an extremely efficient system that conditions the fresh air entering the home with heat recovered from the air being exhausted. The system works in reverse, depending on the season and heating requirements. This decreases the home’s heating or cooling requirements.

They will also install all the hardware and electrical requirements for solar panels but do not plan to install for a few years.

Other energy-efficient features include:

  • heat pump
  • net meter
  • on-demand hot water
  • all ENERGY STAR® fixtures and appliances
  • low-e, ENERGY STAR® rated windows
  • highly reflective roofing materials, and
  • increased insulation values throughout the home.

So far, the project is on-schedule. Pontes expects the house will be ‘locked up’ by the end of summer, with the roof, windows and doors installed. The concrete floors will be poured in September and the HVAC and electrical wiring roughed in. In October, drywall will be installed and some exterior finishing completed. In November, contractors move inside to complete the interior finishing, fixtures, cabinets and painting.

“It’s so exciting to see it all come together, to see this dream that we have had for years grow from the ground up,” says Pontes.