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THINKSMALLEXPERTS AROUND THE WORLD AGREE THAT THE BEST BANG FOR OURHOUSEHOLD GREEN PURCHASES IS FOUND THROUGH INVESTMENTS INENERGY EFFICIENCY. CONSISTENT WITH THE SIMPLE MANTRA "REDUCE,REUSE, RECYCLE," ENERGY EFFICIENCY MEANS REDUCING THE ENERGYYOUR HOME USES TO HEAT, COOL, POWER APPLIANCES AND SO ON.MORE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS, HOWEVER, REVEAL AN EXCITING NEWTREND THAT GOES BEYOND REDUCTION IN ENERGY USE AND LOCKS ITS GAZE FIRMLY ON A "NET ZERO" LEVEL OF PERFORMANCE.28

hat does this mean exactly? Simply put, net zeromeans zero impact on the environment. Thoughambitious, there has been a recent spate of big, boldannouncements from multinational companiesproclaiming a desire to have zero impact on the environment.Water fixture manufacturer Kohler is one such company whounveiled their own zero impact vision just before Toronto'sGreenbuild conference in early October. In the housing sector,zero energy homes (ZEH) are already a reality. Today, around theworld, there are demonstration projects showcasing techniquesand tools for designing, building and even retrofitting homes thatproduce as much energy as they consume on an annual basis.Contrary to what many may think, these homes are not futuristic, off-grid eco-pods where no one wants to live. Rather, they range fromvery simple town homes (Cancun, Mexico), to single family, detachedhomes (Ottawa), to high design, high sex appeal abodes (Melbourne,Australia). Yet they all have one thing in common: they are shapingthe future of homebuilding in Canada and around the world.VISTA REAL, CANCUN, MEXICO: VINTEOne of Mexico's newer builders, Vinte, undertook a project to retrofita series of small but functional townhouses with a goal to achievezero energy. Providing simple yet attractive design, Vinte beganoffering something new to the Mexican market: affordable homes toget people out of informal housing (i.e. shanty towns withoutelectricity and water) and into dignified community housing.Started by forward-thinking entrepreneurs, Vinte's zero energyproject, Vista Real, located just outside of Cancun, was recognizedby President Calderon during last December's Climate Changeconference as a shining example of "climate-friendlydevelopment." Vinte's innovative approach to homebuilding alsoincludes meaningful social benefits. Through a partnership withIntel and Microsoft, new homes are equipped with a computer andbroadband Internet, a clear step to bridge the digital divide oftencited as a further inequality in the developing world.AUSZEH DEMONSTRATION HOUSE, MELBOURNE,AUSTRALIA: HENLEY PROPERTY GROUPAt the other end of the design spectrum sits the high concept zeroenergy home built by Henley Property Group, one of Australia'smost creative builders. This custom design project, labeled theWINTRODUCING THEZERO ENERGY HOMEBy Anthony WatanabeAusZEH Demonstration House, comes complete with indigenous,water-efficient landscaping and the Home Energy Manager, anintuitive, touch-screen console delivering a real-time display ofthe home's energy performance.Thinking ahead to the (near) future of personal mobility, Henleyalso included a charging infrastructure for a plug-in hybrid electricvehicle. This test platform included both charge and dischargefunctionality, and in a controlled setting, saw the car actuallydeliver 6kWh of power to the house over a six-hour charging period.The developer is currently processing the results of a one-yearperformance and occupancy test to determine how the residentseither helped or hindered the energy efficiency of the home.Believe it or not, the US Department of Energy has conductedstudies proving that energy efficiency on the design/build side canbe undermined by occupants by as much as 100 percent!In partnership with a number of other organizations, Henley hasworked on two follow-up projects: a retrofit ZEH and a second newbuild. The diversity of partners alone, which include builders,universities and government, speaks to both the complexity ofZEH and the desire to measure, test and learn about this excitingnew way of building homes.INSPIRATION, OTTAWA, CANADA: MINTO GROUPPerhaps the most accessible zero energy homes for many arecoming from Canadian builder, Minto. The company's first go atdesigning and building a ZEH resulted in the award-winningInspiration, just outside of Ottawa.Visitors to Inspiration may be caught off guard because from thefront, it looks like a normal, detached, single-family home thatone might find in any Canadian suburb. It's in the backyard,29