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Passive House and Net-Zero – both are certification labels for ultra-low energy buildings that use very little energy to heat and cool them. Through thoughtful materials and design, a Passive House cuts energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 90 per cent. A Net Zero building does much the same, but also produces energy through the use of solar panels and similar devices. This home was designed with Colchester County’s enhanced net metering program to reduce or zero the energy consumption. Being such a small home, with the 6500kW solar cells it is expected that there will be $0 cost for the electricity required to heat, cool and power the house throughout the year, with extra energy provided from the panels sold back into the electric consumption grid. The home is greenhouse gas free through the use of electric baseboards and hot water tanks based on heat pump technology.

There are many ways to make a building energy efficient, from adding insulation and angling it toward the morning sun to making it airtight so it doesn’t let energy out and pollution in. But such high-performance, energy efficient homes need not look like one big solar box or be unattractive. This home has large windows, custom fabricated steelrolled panelling and wood finish. Inside, high ceilings, cork floors and recovered barn beams create a comfortable open-living space.


This house fulfils Passive House Canada and the Canadian Home Builders’ Association’s (CHBA) Net-Zero Home Labelling Program. This home reduces energy costs and fights climate change by moving away from carbon-emissions and use of fossil-fuels in its construction materials and energy use. Passive homes are easier to operate, maintain temperates, and provide greater comfort and healthier living. High performance heating, cooling and ventilation equipment, densely insulated walls, floors & roof mean that the heat already in the home can be re-captured through heat recovery ventilation (HRV). Air quality is maintained by a constant new supply of fresh air. It is a bright, sunny, draft free, quiet, and low-maintenance home providing comfort and a reduced carbon footprint.












Below the building is a super-insulated floor slab (R=40). Pre-engineered and delivered to the site, the 14” thickness eliminates thermal loss and provides an air-tight, energy efficient, envelope suitable for poor-soil construction.


The walls are 17” dense-pack cellulose insulation within wood framing; no fiberglass (R=57).  This is a 100% recycled content of newspaper, sawdust, rubber, & cardboard.


The roof uses insulated metal panels (IMP) for solar reflectance (SR) and thermal emittance (TE) with coiled metal and 8” insulation (R=78). Penetration-free solar photovoltaic panels cover nearly 90% of the roof.


The house is extremely energy efficient; net-zero homes are up to 80% more energy efficient than typical new homes. This home is constructed with an air-tight building envelope: windows and doors are Energy Star certified and the slab, walls and roof are very well insulated. An airtight home requires mechanical ventilation; this home’s air filtration system runs 24 hours a day providing superior air quality and comfort. 















Canada’s future climate-change and fuel-security are issues of immediate importance. This home reduces the carbon footprint of home design and living; its energy efficiency radically reduces carbon emissions and supports Nova Scotia’s climate protection initiatives. The home was built with a ‘smart-home’ ecosystem providing self-intelligent shades, air flow, heating, induction stovetop, as well as remote management of all systems and sensors. Beyond fossil fuels, future energy production will move away from the extraction of and construction with non-renewable materials such as Manganese and Nickel in the batteries or magnets of wind turbines and hydropower. Solar energy production costs have fallen the most significantly of any other energy source since 2009 and is an important opportunity for Canada to be the leader in carbon-free energy. 













The World GBC recently reported that “embodied carbon” in building and construction is responsible for 11% of all human-generated carbon emissions in the world. Embodied carbon is the carbon footprint of a material and is an important part of net-zero construction. It considers how many greenhouse gases (GHGs) are released throughout the supply chain and is often measured from the complete cycle of the product. This includes the extraction of materials from the ground, transport, refining, processing, assembly, in-use (of the product) and finally its use in home construction.


The house in Valley, Nova Scotia is called Naguset, the Mi’kmaq word for "sun". Naguset is certified as a Net-Zero Home and built to Passive House standards. Naguset is a R-2000 house and achieved an Energuide rating of 91 – requiring little to no purchased energy. A rating of 100 is the maximum efficiency score as defined by Natural Resources Canada. Typically, R-2000 homes need 30% less energy to operate than conventional new homes. Airtightness is critical to building performance and energy efficiency. The blower-door test on Naguset resulted in a reading of 0.4 ACH (Air Changes/Hour). A typical home would measure 1.5 ACH.


FEATURE                                             ENERGY EFFICIENCY DETAILS

Frost Protected Slab                             The perimeter of the slab has an insulated skirt which prevents frost from penetrating the                                                             soil underneath, eliminating frost heave. This results in superior energy performance,                                                                     while reducing the materials used for the foundation.     


Double Stud Walls                                The walls in this house are essentially two thin walls separated by a space. This separ-                                                                  ation eliminates thermal bridging, where heat is lost through the home's wood framing.


Extra Insulation                                     The entire house is insulated well beyond building code requirements so it loses very

                                                              little heat in winter and gains very little heat in the summer.

                                                                             Walls: R44

                                                                             Ceiling: R80

                                                                             Slab: R32


Solat Hot Water                                     Using the energy from the sun, solar thermal panels heat the water used by the

                                                              occupants of the house.


Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)            The locally-built, highly-efficient HRV unit provides high-quality indoor air. The

                                                               unit's motor can reduce energy consumption by 25%. It has a unique damper

                                                               system and its large-sized core reduces fan noise, increases heat recovery

                                                               efficiency and lowers power consumption.

Triple Glazed Windows                          With a higher insulation level than single or double-glazed windows, these

                                                               windows reduce heat transfer across the glass surface, increasing comfort and

                                                               energy savings.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Power               The PV cells capture the sun's energy and convert it into usable electricity.

                                                               They do not require sunlight and can actually generate electricity on a cloudy day

                                                               to power lights, electronics and everyday appliances.

Passive Solar Heating                            Naguset was built facing South, allowing for optimum solar gain. The windows

                                                               let in natural light which helps increase the home's ability to capture and store thermal

                                                               energy in the form of heat.



At only 580 square-feet of interior living space, the home requires a change in lifestyle and consumption habits to maximise the benefits of the home’s sustainability goals. Small home living reduces not only person-per-sf energy use but carbon-offset and consumer waste are minimised. Inside, the only new items purchased to furnish the home were a mattress and couch; all other home furnishings and materials are re-purposed vintage items found thrifting along the east coast. This small, affordable home allows time and freedom to spend outdoors travelling, hiking, cycling, and eating regional food while supporting local businesses. It is a quiet, comfortable, healthy home. 












Dr. Richard leBrasseur, the homeowner, teaches sustainable environmental design and landscape architecture at Dalhousie University and is Director of the interdisciplinary Green Infrastructure Performance Lab. His goal is to inhabit a home for the long-term that reflects his core values within teaching, designing and living. The future landscape here will include rainwater management and cleansing before entering the public system, a butterfly garden, an outdoor living area with sustainable and recycled materials, and a native, low-maintenance landscape surrounding the house which increases biodiversity, habitat, air and water quality, and carbon sequestration as well as a chance to relax and connect with nature. 


THE BUILDER - Little Foot Properties

Alexander (Sandy) Thorne, Owner

Sandy is the Nova Scotia’s only certified Net-Zero builder. He states: I started Little Foot Properties with the aim to provide home buyers with small passive net zero homes.  Using passive home design and solar power generation our homes will participate in the enhanced net metering program to attempt to reduce or zero the energy consumption of the home.  Depending on your energy consumption habits you will have little to no costs for utilities.

While similar to the movement of tiny home living and minimalism, we have put our own spin on things with the design we sourced from Passive Design Solutions - producing something special that we feel bridges the gap between the traditional large minimum building code home and the tiny home concept incorporating passive design and net zero qualities. 

Our passion is to be able to offer an option not presently available in the mainstream housing industry that offers a spectacular living space at a very affordable entry price.  We feel home ownership should empower you financially, not burden you with high monthly living costs for most of your working life.  In addition to this a home should not encourage or inspire consumption and accumulation of materialistic possessions.  It should inspire you to live for what matters, experiencing life, traveling, embracing what really matters.

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30 Falcon Road, Valley NS B6L 4L7

Construction Completed May 2020

580 Total SF - Cost per SF : about $320

1 br, 1 bath, open kitchen-living area

Upstairs loft over bedroom

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This home and project was supported by:


Royal Lepage Atlantic

Kathy Harpell, Realtor

Truro, NS

(902) 647-2899


CIBC Small Home Construction Financing

Jason Flemming, Mortgage Advisor

116 Park St, Truro, NS B2N 3J3

(902) 647-2899

Canada’s future climate-change and fuel-security are issues of immediate importance and it’s climate emergency response can achieve a carbon-free future and sustainable living solutions but requires a change towards renewable energy sources and materials, particularly in Canada’s and Nova Scotia’s building and construction industry.


In a typical code-built house in Canada, about 60-70 per cent of energy is used for heating. This home’s energy efficiency significantly reduces carbon emissions and supports Nova Scotia’s climate-protection initiatives.  

Both Rick and Sandy are aware that in just 13 years what you build today [according to current building code] will not be to code in 2033. Energy prices will rise; and the environmental damage for extracting these finite resources will continue to be significant. We both think about our environmental and social responsibility and know that housing has been identified as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and future sustainable and healthy living.

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