When Colin Usher, an architect and co-founder of John McCall Architects, started thinking about building his own home, he took to the drawing board and dreamed up an affordable, energy efficient home using building information modeling to perfect the energy use.

To create a thick thermal mass, Usher included concrete blocks in the exterior and interior walls as well as the floor, and used triple-glazed windows and doors. The envelope was so tight he had to bring in a mechanical ventilation system. Usher also relied on an air-to-water air source heat pump to deliver both heating and hot water. He topped the south-facing roof with solar panels to deliver more than 3300 kWh of electricity each year.

When all was said and done, the house priced out at $340,000, comparable to similar homes in the West Kirby, England area. In the last two years since building the home, the family has paid only $21 each year for its energy bills.

"It proves eco-homes don’t have to be over expensive or need to be conspicuously unconventional in appearance," says Usher upon winning an Buildings and Energy Efficiency Award for his home.

Read more >