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Net-zero Energy Concrete Homes

Precast Concrete Construction and Net-zero Energy Concrete Homes go hand in hand with Habitat for Humanity Green Initiatives


Could the usual sound of hammers on wood-frame houses one day be replaced by the sound of cranes erecting precast concrete slabs and panels? Well in Edmonton it will happen and the result will be an energy-efficient “net-zero” duplex residence powered by solar and geothermal technologies that will drastically reduce energy bills.

Construction materials company Lafarge Precast and consulting firm Stantec announced on Tuesday October 04, 2011 during the Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute National Precast Day at Lafarge plant in Edmonton that they are designing and building a two precast concrete “net-zero” homes for two Habitat for Humanity families. Habitat for Humanity is a not-for-profit organization that builds affordable houses for low-income families.

Caption: Participants are shown how the production of precast concrete elements take place under controlled conditions in an enclosed facility.


CPCI’s National Precast Day is a (annual national open house plant tour of precast plants across Canada). The open house effectively demonstrates how precast is manufactured under rigorous quality controls and shows the many sustainable benefits of building with precast concrete. This year’s theme was Sustainable Structures for Tomorrow. Professors and students from universities, colleges and technical schools related to the construction industry are invited along with all other construction professionals (architects, general contractors, design-build contractors, facilities officers, specification writers, owners/developers, engineers and consultants).

“We thought Habitat for Humanity would be a natural partner for us to give back to the community. We knew this initiative would also be an opportunity for us to learn a great deal about sustainable and net-zero energy construction,” said Peter Yurkiw, General Manager of Lafarge (Precast Division) Alberta.

Caption: Peter Yurkiw, General Manager of Lafarge (Precast Division) Alberta addresses participants during NPD on the new net-zero home concept.

“While precast concrete industry has had long term market share in bridges, parking garages, condos, commercial and institutional buildings it’s less common for single family and duplex buildings, and a net-zero home is an entirely new concept for Lafarge”, Peter said. Precast concrete allows for better temperature control, is more durable and the precast wall panels and floor/roof slabs can be taken apart and reused in other buildings if the present structure is no longer useful.


Don Zakariasen, Director of Marketing for Lafarge, explains the wall panels and floor and roof slabs (80 pieces in total) for the Habitat project will be manufactured inside Lafarge’s Edmonton, AB precast plant. “Environmental and manufacturing conditions at a precast concrete plant are easily monitored. The production of precast concrete elements takes place under controlled conditions in an enclosed facility. This makes the control of manufacturing, waste, emissions, noise levels, etc. easy compared with the same processes at a building site.”

The frame of the house can be installed in a day, complete with windows that are already in the precast wall panel when delivered to the job site. Construction on the duplex begin fall of 2011 at an as-yet undisclosed location. Each home will be two-levels with 1,060 square feet of space above ground and a 500-square-foot undeveloped basement. “When the construction process is adapted for mass production, costs will be competitive with traditional wood home construction”, Don said.

Solar cells on the roof will provide power and a geothermal system, which extracts heat from naturally warmed underground water, will provide heating. Meanwhile, the precast concrete walls and basement slab are rated at R44 and the roof at R88.

While it will draw energy from the power grid at times and provide energy at others, the home is expected to be net zero when evaluated at its annual year-end.

“This results in lower monthly utility costs that make this home attainable for more hard-working families in Edmonton, while the lessons learned here can be replicated worldwide,” said Stantec Edmonton region vice-president Keith Shillington. Stantec provided architectural design and sustainability consulting for the duplex.

“This could be game-changing,” said Susan Green, board chairwoman for Habitat for Humanity Edmonton.

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