A Look at New Brunswick’s First Certified Net-Zero Home

New Brunswick's first net-zero home. Image: Brad McLaughlin, MCL.

A New Brunswick construction company is bringing the province its first official net-zero home. 

MCL Construction and Remodelling, with the help of NexGen Energy, is just wrapping up the home located in Quispamsis that will be unveiled next month. According to MCL, the home will be the first net-zero home to be built in the province that has met the criteria required by both the federal government and the Canadian Homebuilders Association.

Brad McLaughlin, general manager of MCL construction, says his company has always tried to be on the leading edge of energy efficiency, even back when his father Bob McLaughlin first founded the business.

“My father started the company in 1978 … and they actually created the first R-2000 house in New Brunswick back around 1982. It was the most efficient home at the time,” McLaughlin. “So as I’m going into the organization, I thought it would be a good opportunity to go to the next step. So I decided to do this net-zero home.”

For a home to be net-zero, it has to produce as much energy as it would consume in a year. To build such a home, McLaughlin sought the help of different tradespeople. One of them was NexGen, a company specializing in a wide variety of energy solutions. They took care of all of the home’s electrical, ventilation and renewables.

“I covered three people in one trade. So I asked [NexGen’s Mark McAloon] if he wanted to come construct that part of the home,” says McLauglin.

NexGen president and CEO Mark McAloon says the home is one one of the best he’s seen.

“I’ve been in hundreds and hundreds of new home constructions and this is definitely one of the best-built homes I’ve ever seen. The things behind the wall that customers won’t see later on, those are the things that really stand out to me as an energy guy,” says McAloon. “Everything from the amount of insulation put underneath the concrete in the ground to the amount of thermal barriers and insulation around the whole house … right from the footings all the way up to the rafters, you can’t build any better than that.”

The home is a two-storey three-bedroom, designed for a family of four.

“It’s got a unique look to it because we used solar panels [that] have to be south-facing with our roof sloped to catch as much sunlight as we can to produce the energy to run the home,” says McLaughlin. “It’s got all the nice amenities that you need in a home. It has a nice kitchen with granite counter tops, a nice brick fireplace … there are still those ‘wow’ factors but there’s also the ‘wow’ factor that if you operate the home, as it’s designed, the only power that you should have to either draw or pay for is that hook-up fee through NB Power.”

Once unveiled, the home will be put on the market. The price is still yet to be determined. But first, McLaughlin says he wants to show it to the public for several months. The goal is to educate anyone who is interested in energy efficiency.

“Banks, realtors, appraisers, the public, even our own clients and our staff … [I want] to bring everyone in and show how it operates, which I think is exciting for my staff and I think it’s definitely exciting for the public,” he says.

Though being the first accredited net-zero home in New Brunswick is significant, Mclaughlin says net-zero should be the standard for all new homes built in the province. He says many construction companies are still only building up to code and not thinking beyond that.

“I hope it educates a lot of people, but we’re at this point now that this should be the standard,” he says. “Even net-zero ready today should be the standard, in my mind. That’s how I feel about our organization and where we’re going with it.”

McLaughlin thinks the home could get contractors and builders to follow suit but believes his example will do more to educate home buyers.

“By taking this kind of jump in being the first one to build a home like this, it’s going to increase the knowledge of the buyer. The buyer is going to see this home and they’re going to look at other homes and [ask] ‘why don’t I have this?’ or ‘how much would it be to have this?’” says McLaughlin.

“They’re going to open up this knowledge base and they’re going to be able to ask questions when they want to design their next home or buy a home.”

Mark McAloon says the project will also help New Brunswick catch up to the rest of the country and the world.

“Every other province and country in the world has already done this, it just takes someone [with the] ambition to try it,” he says. “It’s really significant for our province to take the leadership role and show that it can be done.”