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Edmonton couple builds first carbon-free laneway home

The house offers a bunch of firsts — as well as rental income

Karly Coleman and Andy Hengst built a garage suite that uses energy and land efficiently.

Kevin Tuong/Metro

Karly Coleman and Andy Hengst built a garage suite that uses energy and land efficiently.

A Westmount couple is looking for tenants for a new house they built — except it’s no ordinary home.

They say it’s the first zero carbon laneway house in Edmonton.

“A few years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity and desire to do a few things. First, showcase the fact that you can build energy efficient buildings in Alberta that are functional; second, increase the density in the downtown core; and thirdly, have some rental income revenue,” said Karly Coleman, a full-time student.

Coleman and her husband, Andy Hengst, worked with local green building consultant Carbon Busters to build the 638-square-foot home — which includes two bedrooms and comes with a garage — on their existing property.

The mid-block garage suite features solar cells to create electricity, an electric car charger, thermal storage and smart-grid integration. It also uses a solar wall and air-to-water heat pump for heating and water — a system that Carbon Busters said is a first for an Edmonton home.

The house is designed to produce as much electricity as it consumes on average per year, and will also help offset the power used in the couple’s main house.

“My husband and I are both committed to reducing our footprint in as many ways as possible. He’s involved in solar energy renewal, and I’m a committed bicycle advocate. It made a lot of sense to build what we value,” Coleman said.

The other thing they value is better ways of using land and preventing urban sprawl, she said.

The couple considered building a garage suite under the city’s old cornerstone construction program. But when they heard new bylaws would be passed in 2014 to allow for mid-block laneway construction, they decided to wait because it would make the process easier for them.

To share the house with the community, the couple is holding an open house this weekend.

“People have kept asking about this project and telling their friends, so we thought we would open it up to them,” Coleman said.  

Hengst said he hopes their example will encourage others to work with local efficient-building contractors. “They’ll have a very steep growth curve as people realize how important it is.

"It takes early adopters to push it along,” he said.

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