One might believe that a Net Zero rating comes at the exclusion of traditional energy sources or that the goal of all green initiatives is to completely cease use of non-renewable energy — but this is not the case at Willowview Heights. Big Block Construction has partnered with SaskEnergy in order to provide residents with reliable heating through Saskatchewan’s cold winters while still maintaining a focus on responsible energy use.
Natural gas is one of the most dependable sources of energy due to the redundancies built into SaskEnergy’s network so that on the rare occasion an outage does occur, service is returned quickly — something that is hugely important in minus 40 temperatures.
Megan Bunney, manager of market sustainability for SaskEnergy, said one of the misconceptions about natural gas is that it has no role in a Net Zero build.
“Some of the work that we've seen lately is that if you really want to transition towards that low carbon environment, you need it to be affordable,” Bunney said.
Bunney noted there’s a huge cost involved in an infrastructure overhaul with going fully electric, so natural gas can be what makes Net Zero affordable. Additionally, with better technology always on the horizon, further improvements can be made into how efficiently we harness natural gas.
“There's newer gas technologies that are being developed that are actually looking at what they call coefficient of performance higher than one. So essentially it would be higher than 100 per cent efficient,” Bunney said.
This technology works by not only relying on the natural gas, but on the environment around them as well. With two air-source heat pumps, these systems are able to bolster the productivity of the furnace by harnessing heat found outside as well.
“Within that heat pump it's actually taking both those sources, one of them being free and one of them we generate and supply — and gives out more energy than is contained in the gas in the form of heat,” Bunney explained.
With the ability to garner efficiency values higher than one, natural gas fits with Net Zero because it is built around energy efficiency. It is for these reasons SaskEnergy has partnered with Big Block by providing the heating units and smart thermostats used in the construction of Willowview Heights.
”It's a strategic partnership because it shows the viability of natural gas in Net Zero buildings. With this being a building that will be monitored and profiled and also provide direction for future building codes, this is a key partnership for us and for the future of our industry.”
SaskEnergy is a partner on the Willowview Heights project. We're so grateful for all the amazing partners who are helping to make this first-of-its-kind project a success.