Simon Whissel, Longwood’s construction manager, and Chelsea Pigeon, project coordinator. Photo courtesy of Better Builder magazine.
You might say that building energy-efficient homes is in the DNA of Ottawa-area homebuilder Longwood Building Corporation.
The company’s founder, Guy Whissel, was born and raised in Ottawa, studied architecture and learned the ropes with major city builders in the late 1970s and 1980s before starting Longwood Building Corporation in 1988 with a simple promise to homebuyers: “a great product at a great price.” Whissel’s company began small, but quickly gained a share of the Ottawa market, building 75 to 100 new homes per year. Since then, Longwood has built more than 1,250 single-family homes, bungalow communities and condominiums for growing families and people downsizing.
A top priority for Longwood from day one was energy efficiency, according to Guy’s son, Simon Whissel, construction manager at Longwood. “One thing the company included in our homes was upgraded insulation — a huge leap back then,” he says. Following in his father’s footsteps, Simon is leading his company today into the next chapter, merging its signature unique and thoughtful designs (based on one-to-one consultations with homeowners) with the latest in energy efficiency and sustainability.
Guiding Longwood’s evolution to even better sustainability is Savings by Design from Enbridge Gas, a program that Whissel describes as “more important than ever” in the building industry. “It offers education, assembly instruction and ways to reduce our carbon footprint, incorporating tools like superior insulation, insulated exterior sheathing, airtightness measures, combination fuel systems and third-party air testing,” he says.
Green Solution gets an update
Longwood Building Corporation had been offering homebuyers its proprietary Green Solution energy-saving features since the 1990s. Now, through its participation in Savings by Design, the brand has been revitalized and elevated, with many more components available.
“Our Green Solution is more relevant than ever. It puts a whole new focus on the benefits of energy efficiency,” says Whissel. He lists the following features:
- Increased insulation R-value in ceilings and walls
- Super-tight window and door sealing
- Blower door testing
- Combination heating system that uses heat from the hot water tank (cutting gas consumption by up to 20%)
- Home electricity usage monitoring system
- Home Energy Rating System (HERS) third-party energy consumption calculator that allows builders to make the best energy choices for their particular designs, materials and construction methods
Other Green Solution options include hardwood flooring from certified renewable sources and low- to zero-VOC paints, carpeting and other materials. Whissel’s own home in a Longwood neighbourhood includes all of these features.
Key to Longwood’s Green Solution offerings is insulation, and the company is using Owens Corning products exclusively: R-60 blown fiberglass in the attic, R-24 batt in the walls and continuous R-20 batt on the inside of basement walls for warm below-grade living spaces. “Owens Corning PINK insulation gives us great products with an added benefit of the ‘Pink Panther’ brand awareness in the neighbourhood,” says Whissel. “Other benefits important to us are the attributes of Owens Corning products: GREENGUARD Gold certification for better indoor air quality [and] an average of 73% recycled content in their batt products, which helps to reduce both operational and embodied carbon.”
In addition to fiberglass ceiling and interior wall insulation, a unique wood fibre sheathing is applied to outside walls to provide extra insulation and retain indoor humidity, while preventing rain and snow melt from penetrating wall cavities. According to Longwood’s website, Enbridge Gas estimates that all the components of Longwood’s Green Solution save homeowners an average of $718 per year in energy costs and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,300 kilograms (about as much as a single car produces over nine months).
As to the price of retooling for greener building through Savings by Design, Whissel claims that the program’s incentives, such as research and marketing support, help to offset the added costs. “It’s a small price to pay, and Enbridge is doing its part to help builders achieve better energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” he says.
Green changes in the home building industry
Whissel believes that the biggest change in the building industry over the past years has been an evolution from simply building houses to building sustainable houses. “People are looking for energy-efficient homes these days. While builders are asking ‘What can we do to be more energy efficient, and how do we do it and still be affordable?’, Savings by Design is helping us do this, and everybody is hopping on board,” he says.
Currently, Longwood homes are being rated at 20% better than Code using HERS. Can the company do even better? “Zero energy−ready is the direction we’re headed,” says Whissel. “With every new project, we ask ourselves what else we can do. We’ve seen lately how expensive homes are to build and buy, and if we can make the operation of homes less expensive, that’s good news for homeowners. And helping our buyers reduce their carbon footprint means we’re doing our part in fighting climate change.”
Marc Huminilowycz is a senior writer. He lives and works in a low-energy home built in 2000. As such, he brings first-hand experience to his writing on technology and residential housing and has published numerous articles on the subject.
Originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Better Builder magazine