A tour of Edmonton’s first off-grid office

Mayor hails renovation as “leadership in the city”

Spring 2019 began with a fresh start for energy-efficient building construction in Edmonton, thanks to a renovation by Effect Home Builders in the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood. That’s the site of the company’s new head office, a major retrofit of an existing structure that is the city’s first commercial building to be completely disconnected from the electrical grid.

“It’s much more than a renovation,” said Les Wold (Applied Banking and Business ’92), managing partner at Effect Home Builders.

It’s not net zero, which the World Green Building Council defines as “highly energy efficient and fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources,” but it’s close. The building features micro combined heat and power units that use natural gas to generate electricity onsite. They also capture the heat produced by that process and use it warm the water and air.

Micro heat and power illustrationOn sunny days, these units defer to 16 rooftop solar panels unless the build calls for heat. Batteries store excess electricity made by both sources.

Compared to the building’s previous life as an apartment, it now produces 80 per cent fewer emissions.

On hand for the grand opening on March 22 was Mike Holmes, television host and the builder behind the Holmes Approved Homes. The program provides consumers with a list of builders and renovators that meet the industry expert’s quality expectations. Effect is one of four Edmonton-area builders on the list.

“This is the way we should be doing this,” he said of the renovation. “This is showing people how we can do this anywhere” – including in a city where winter temperatures can dip to -30 C and daylight hours bottom out at seven and a half.

The same event saw Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson declare the building a model for local construction. “This is a phenomenal addition to the neighbourhood,” he said. “It’s a proud day for Edmonton to have this kind of leadership in the city.”

With the help of Alternative Energy Technology program chair Jim Sandercock, we took a look at the technology energizing Effect’s new office – a glimpse of what the future of renovations and buildings could look like in a more energy-efficient Edmonton.


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