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Home About SAIT News & Events “The Confluence” wins national, international awards in sustainable building

“The Confluence” wins national, international awards in sustainable building

SAIT and partners have won a 2021 Canada Green Building Council Excellence Award and a 2021 Forest Stewardship Council Leadership Award

A living building made possible by SAIT’s  Green Building Technologies (GBT)Woodpecker European Timber Framing and an Alberta family has been recognized at national and international levels.

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) selected “The Confluence” — a home west of Cochrane that is designed to produce more energy than it uses and creates a positive impact on its people and environment — as winner of a Green Building Excellence Award in the category of Inspiring Home.

The award, sponsored by Enbridge, is presented to a team responsible for outstanding achievements in a high-performing, sustainable residential project in Canada.

“The Confluence” is also being commended on the world stage, winning a 2021 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Leadership Award. The team was recognized for their FSC-centric partnership and their use of FSC sustainably-harvested wood throughout the project.

“This award is particularly rewarding as it was one of the hardest hurdles for us to overcome and required a significant amount of time to research,” says Tracey Chala, ( Architectural Technologies ’01), Principal Investigator on the project and EcoCanada’s 2020 EcoImpact Top Environmental Professional.

The front porch of The Confluence at night, featuring a custom overhang with wooden trusses.

Good bones: Eco-friendly home wins 2021 Prairie Wood Design Award

How do you build a house with wood that is sustainably harvested or salvaged, is sourced as locally as possible and doesn’t contain “red-listed” toxic ingredients? The team behind “The Confluence” found a way.

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Both awards are the latest in a string of accolades “The Confluence” has received from the building industry.

GBT provided research and technology to support the construction of the eco-friendly home. Together with their partners, they hope it will achieve the highest possible certification through the  Living Building Challenge (LBC), the world’s most rigorous green building rating program and sustainable design framework.

They’re aiming to be fifth house in the world to do it.

Homes that give more than they take

To achieve the LBC certification, the two-storey 2,238 square foot custom home must adhere to seven areas of sustainability during construction. Amongst other requirements, the building must produce 105% of its own renewable energy, use water captured on site through a well and rainwater collection and steer clear of 815 “red-listed” toxic chemicals in any products used to construct the home.

A member of SAIT's Green Building Technologies team stands in a wheat field on a clear day.

How to change the world one green building at a time

Learn about the environmental implications of constructing "The Confluence" from SAIT's GBT team.


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For homeowners Joleen and Gerton Molenaar, the goal has always been to build the best possible home for their family and future generations.

"Having a family, becoming a parent and being responsible for their lives, is the reason we built a Living Building Challenge home — one that protects their health and the environment,” says Gerton Molenaar.

The home’s systems must also be monitored for twelve months following construction to prove sustainable performance, setting LBC apart from other green rating systems.

Luckily, SAIT has a plan for that.

Green tech for the future

GBT and the Centre for Innovative Information Technology Solutions — both divisions of SAIT’s Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) department — will pilot their newly-developed digital dashboard to monitor building performance.

The dashboard, hosted on a visualization tablet and created for industry partner Ideal Electric, will monitor and report on the home’s energy generation, interior and exterior water use, and estimate wastewater volumes through electrical monitoring of the well pump. The tablet will also capture other data, including air quality results — uploaded regularly to capture levels of radon, CO, CO 2, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds — as well as net energy usage (from utility bills).

The utility room in the house, featuring eco-friendly equipment and systems.

The mechanical room is the brain for all of the systems, ensuring the innovative technologies are functioning efficiently and effectively. SAIT's newly-developed digital dashboard will monitor and report on building performance.

With data accessible remotely and refreshed often, this innovative technology will incorporate more comprehensive monitoring processes than previously developed dashboards. It will bring more awareness to home metrics and their correlation to home occupant behaviour.

“Energy and water use can be curbed when an owner is able to see its use in real time,” says Chala.

“The dashboard will also prove that material selection is critical in ensuring clean indoor air, and that rainwater and well water and renewable energy can sustain a family of five.”

A collage of three photos - one of the project team, one of the inside of the kitchen, and one exterior shot of the house during construction.

If these walls could talk

Take a tour of "The Confluence" —  view a photo gallery and learn more about the house green tech built at sait.ca/livingbuilding.


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The dashboard isn’t the only place you’ll find green tech in the house — it’s literally in the walls.

GBT provided consultation on the enhancement of high-performance energy-efficient wall panels. By providing a building science perspective and helping source local, FSC-certified and non-toxic materials, the homebuilder was able to revise their original design to create pre-assembled robust wall panels that are well-suited to the climate, maintain comfortable interior temperatures and reduce heating and cooling costs.

Energy efficient wall panels during construction

High-performance energy-efficient wall panels will help keep "The Confluence" warm in -40°C winters. 

Doing it differently

“The Confluence” is nothing like the fully certified LBC houses to come before it.

For one thing, the project is located in a remote village bound by the challenges of a northern climate compared to its suburban, southern counterparts. And where some of the other projects had a budget of between $3-5 million, this home will be completed for a fraction of that.

As part of their applied education, SAIT students left their own mark on this once-in-a-lifetime project, gaining career-building experience through practicum, capstone and volunteer opportunities. The GBT team — five of whom are SAIT graduates themselves — involved 19 SAIT students to support essential tasks including sourcing sustainably-certified wood, researching non-toxic cleaning products, designing the project website and creating architectural renderings.

For Keith Leung (Architectural Technologies ’19), who worked on the project during his second-year practicum, lessons learned from “The Confluence” have stuck with him through employment.

“The project was beyond anything I could have imagined in a traditional classroom setting,” says Leung. “It was certainly a highlight in my education, and a rewarding experience to have been a part of the team.”

Did you know?

Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) is a coalition of 15 Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) members  —  including SAIT —  poised to educate a post-pandemic workforce to support a new climate-focused economic recovery. C2R2 will champion projects across Canada to support a recovery that delivers good jobs, positively impact the environment and address socio-economic inequality.

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