energy efficient construction standards

There are many components to successfully building highly energy efficient homes.

At Habitat Manitoba:

• We use Insulated concrete forms for the basement walls resulting in an insulation factor of R32 in the walls.

• We maintain a level of R 60 in the attic.

• We seal all of the seams in the exterior walls to prevent air seepage.

• We reduce the amount of glazing to prevent as much thermal transference as possible, while still providing enough light to meet a comfort level for the families.

• We install a properly sized and balanced heating and ventilation system to provide and

maintain optimal comfort levels including temperature and humidity.

• Our furnaces are 10 kW electric furnaces that are stepped down to a level of 7.5 kW. There are no electric furnaces available at the 7.5 kW size, so we reduce the wattage to provide the proper amount of heat and ECM motors to ensure even distribution without over pressurizing the houses.

• The air conditioning units are 13 SEER 2 ton condensing units. (SEER is Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and 13 SEER is recommended for our climate).

• We use the best HRV system possible – to provide enough humidity to allow for a comfortable atmosphere in the homes, while pre-warming the cold air before it gets to the furnace – which then uses less energy to heat the house.

• We install suspended wood floor in the basements, and ventilate the crawl space with heated air to provide a warm floor in the basement.

• We use 4’ drain water heat recovery pipes to pre-heat the water coming into the hot water tank to save energy used to heat the water. Added bonus is that the heat recovery pipes provide ambient heat to the utility room that heats the cold air adding to the efficiency of the furnace.

• In regards to windows, energy performance and comfort rests on two key factors:
1. Solar Heat Gain Co-efficient (SHGC)
2. The U-Factor

• Our windows are all triple pane low E argon filled windows with a U Factor of .260 in comparison to a dual pane low e window having a U-Factor of .480. The lower the number the better the performance.

We monitor our family’s homes for energy usage – and on average our families spend $100 a month on all energy costs combined. Heating, cooling, appliances, lighting, hot water tank, lighting and computers.

Efficiency Manitoba and Habitat Manitoba are proud to have a collaboration agreement to jointly pursue energy use reductions in homes. This partnership between Manitoba’s Crown corporation for energy efficiency and the affordable housing organization will enable the construction, operation, and maintenance of energy-efficient housing for low-income homeowners throughout the province, leading to lower living costs for Habitat Partner families.

Green homes use less water, energy, and natural resources. They also decrease impacts on the environment. Zero-carbon homes reduce harmful emissions by avoiding embodied carbon from materials and building processes and operational carbon emitted by running the homes mechanical systems.

Following are the benefits of building Green:

• Reduction of natural resource consumption

• Reduction of operating costs

• Health, comfort and safety for all family members

• Energy optimization and reduction of energy consumption

• Better indoor air quality (IAQ has a tremendous impact on human health)

• By promoting how Habitat builds homes, it leaves a very positive impression to our donors, business partners and the public in general.

• Reduced environmental impacts by, for example, reducing storm water runoff and the heating effect

• Choosing a green building concept for a home is not just an option but a lifelong commitment to uphold the virtues of natural, sustainable living…a conscious decision to arrest resource depletion and protect nature for our future generations.

Practitioners of green building concepts often seek to achieve not only ecological but aesthetic harmony between a structure and it’s surrounding of natural and built environment. The appearance and style of sustainable homes and buildings can be nearly indistinguishable from their less sustainable counterparts.

According to one source, “Green” is regarded as ‘The voluntary pursuit of any activity which is concerned with energy efficiency, environmental management, water management, renewable energy, and waste management and recycling.’ Green practices ultimately lead to sustainable development and equitable growth.

While a good design is essential to green building, the actual disposal of the building materials also have very significant effects on buildings’ overall environmental impact.

“Green Building” is not only related to the selected construction material but also to the long-term impact on environment and on people’s health.

The characteristics of the green building material itself constitute points which have to be reconsidered by building professionals when planning sustainable design projects.

The used materials should be natural and environmental-friendly.

• The impact on the environment with regards to manufacturing, distribution, construction, renovation and demolition is relatively small.

• Minimum quantity of chemicals necessary to prepare the material for construction is used.

• The material can be recycled.


Habitat Manitoba has built several accessible homes by incorporating wider doorways and hallways for wheelchair accessibility, if mobility issues become apparent. This reduces the cost of otherwise expensive renovations and helps maintain the future affordability of Habitat homes.

We have custom designed and built many homes for families with special needs. For example, for one of the homes constructed as part of the 2017 “Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project” HFHM’s team designed and built a single family one story home with main floor laundry, a fully accessible kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, closets, access to the front deck, and wheelchair ramps to the back parking area for easy access to Winnipeg Transit Plus.

Building Materials

All Habitat homes are built with top grade, new materials, either purchased or donated from manufacturers and/or home building centre retail outlets. In order to maintain the highest energy efficient standards, HFHM uses 2” x 6” construction with rigid Styrofoam on the outside of the house above grade, creating an R30 insulation rating.

Insulated Concrete forms are used on the foundation walls, along with raised wooden floors to create a warmer and dryer basement, which makes the lower level a prime area for expanding the living space. Often our families are large enough that we build bedrooms in the basement.

Skilled Labour

Professional construction personnel are necessary to guide Habitat’s many enthusiastic build volunteers. They ensure safety and teach volunteers basic building techniques that many utilize later for their own home projects. While volunteers do a large part of the home construction, it is the skilled professional labour that Habitat counts on to ensure a home is built to our high standards. Professional trades are hired to finish the home’s inner workings such as plumbing, electrical, heating along with dry walling to ensure building codes are, at a minimum, met.