By Trevor Gloyn, Calgary Herald

Purchasing a home involves making many decisions. How many bedrooms do you need? What neighbourhood do you want to live in? Should it be previously owned, brand new or custom-built?

Here’s one more thing to consider: is the home a “green” home? That is, does it have features that will save energy and water, reduce maintenance costs and waste, offer a healthy indoor environment and have a reduced impact on the earth?

With growing awareness around being green and making the right choices for the environment, it’s not surprising that more and more builders are constructing green homes.

In addition, homeowners are investing in upgrading their homes with green features to make them more energy efficient, comfortable as well as to increase the sales value.

All of this is good news for buyers who are looking for a home with a particular shade of green. Whether you’re looking at a home that is previously owned or one that is new, here are some things to consider:

– Insulation: Next to a mortgage, energy costs can be one of the most significant household expenditures. An energy-efficient home conserves energy by reducing heat loss during the winter and heat gains during the summer.

One of the best ways to reduce heat loss and gain is to ensure ceilings, walls and foundations are well-insulated and draft-free. Energy Star windows and doors will also help keep your heating and cooling costs down while improving comfort.

– Heating systems: A home with an older model heating system that operates at 65 to 75 per cent efficiency can realize significant cost savings by converting to a new energy efficient model that operates at 85 to 98 per cent efficiency.

Look for heating systems that use high efficiency motors as well to reduce electricity costs.

– Water-efficiency: Water is a precious resource. Newer front loading clothes washers can use far less water than older top loaders.

They can save on water heating and clothes drying costs too. Also, ask if the home has low-or dual-flush toilets and low-flow shower and faucet fixtures.

Water use can be further reduced by limiting the amount of water required to maintain lawns and gardens through the use of hardy, indigenous plants, capturing rain water for irrigation and limiting lawn area.

– Light fixtures: Energy-efficient lighting is an easy way to reduce your electrical consumption. Look for compact fluorescent lamps, which last up to 10 times longer than regular bulbs and use one-third of the energy.

– Durable building materials: When a building material requires frequent repair or replacing, it becomes both an environmental and economic burden.

Durable materials don’t need to be replaced or repaired as frequently and this reduces repair costs as well as the amount of resources consumed to supply the materials and the amount of material taken to landfills.

Look for things like exterior siding that doesn’t need frequent painting, roofing materials built to last for 20 years or more, and moisture-resistant finishes in bathrooms and kitchens.

– Indoor Air Quality: Choose materials and finishes that have low odour and low pollutant emissions. A ventilation system that provides fresh outdoor air and deals with moisture and odours can also help maintain a healthy indoor environment.


Mortgage insurance allows buyers to enter the world of home ownership faster by making it possible to purchase a home with a five per cent minimum down payment, rather than the 20 per cent that is typically required for an uninsured mortgage.

If you use CMHC-insured financing to purchase or build an energy-efficient home, or to carry out energy-saving renovations on an existing home, you may be eligible for a refund of 10 per cent of the mortgage insurance premium. For example, a borrower who obtains a typical $250,000-mortgage with a five per cent down payment can benefit from a mortgage insurance premium refund of about $690. qualified energy adviser and has been determined to have an energy efficiency rating of 80 or above.

– The home is a condo unit in a building that has been confirmed by NRCan or a project engineer to be at least 25% more efficient than the Model National Energy Code for Buildings

If you purchase an existing home and make energy-saving renovations, or make these renovations to a home you already own, you will have to obtain an NRCan energy evaluation before you start your energy retrofit.

The evaluation report will provide you with a “before” rating of the home’s energy efficiency and will recommend renovations that can improve the rating.

When you have completed your renovations, a second energy evaluation must be carried out to assess the effectiveness of the renovations. You can submit your application to CMHC for the premium refund if the second evaluation confirms that the renovations increased the home’s NRCan energy rating by at least five points and a minimum NRCan energy rating of 40 has been achieved.

To date, Canadian homeowners have received $3 million in premium refunds through CMHC’s Green Home mortgage insurance program.

For more information about energy-efficient housing and qualifying for a mortgage loan insurance refund, and to access helpful links for obtaining an energy assessment, please visit:

and enter “premium refund” into the search field.

As Canada’s national housing agency, CMHC draws on more than 60 years of experience to help Canadians access a variety of high quality, environmentally sustainable and affordable homes. CMHC also provides reliable, impartial and up-to-date housing market reports, analysis and knowledge to support and assist consumers and the housing industry in making vital decisions.

Trevor Gloyn is general manager, Prairie and Territories Region, Canada Mortg age and Housing Corp.


If you are purchasing an energy-efficient home, and wish to apply for the premium refund, you will have to provide documentation to – that your home meets at least one of these requirements:

– The house is constructed under a CMHC-eligible energy-efficient building program, for example R-2000 or Built Green Platinum (Alberta). For a complete list, visit www.cmhc.caand enter “CMHC-eligible” into the search field.

– The house has been assessed by a National Resources Canada (NRCan)

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If you’re committed to living a green and sustainable lifestyle, the location of your home can be just as important as what it’s made of.

During your search, think about looking for a sustainable neighbourhood — one that will allow you to reduce your environmental footprint even further and save you more money.

– Location, location, location: Sustainable neighbourhoods contain everything you need for – living within an area where it is easy to walk, cycle or take a bus.

This includes schools, shopping, jobs, recreation facilities and libraries.

By spending less time in your car, you will significantly reduce your environmental footprint and save money on gas.

– Variety: Sustainable neighbourhoods offer a variety of housing options, from townhouses and condos to single family homes and can accommodate people along the full spectrum of needs and budgets.

One way to check the nearby destinations in any neighbourhood you’re considering on your green home hunt, is to visit www.walkscore.comand enter the address of the house you’re looking at.

This tool calculates a walk-ability score for that address based on its proximity to transit, grocery stores, schools and other amenities.

This is one element of sustain-ability that can be compared to other neighbourhoods.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
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