Affordable Net-Zero – Renewable


– This is Reza. Reza arrived in Edmonton on a winter night nearly 50 years ago, the young engineer and a sci-fi junkie who
wanted to build the future. Today, he’s an Order of Canada recipient known internationally for
his work in net-zero housing. But Reza never really stopped
thinking about the future. We are going to talk to
Reza about his next project that hopes to put the house of the future into as many hands as possible, and what it’s going to
take to make our tomorrow look a little more like
the tomorrow his generation imagined when they
watched the moon landing. Here on Renewable. – I’m an electrical engineer. And I did the masters again
in biomedical engineering. But then what happened was
Armstrong walked on the moon. I have been a science fiction junkie as a kid from grade 4 on. That was really what
changed everything for me. And I wanted to be part of the new wave. We have been building sustainable homes, or energy-efficient homes,
for a long time actually. Our vision statement
12 years, 11 years ago really was, to help industrialize
the construction process. – Industrialize the construction process. If you want to know why
what Reza was suggesting was so shocking and what it
has to do with sustainability, first you need to know some things about how we currently build buildings. – Site building is very, very inefficient. When you build a house on a site, you have to send truckloads of lumber and then just dump them on the site. And it rains, it snows,
the lumber gets wasted. There’s no planning really for it. – Meaning if we look at the number of trucks it takes to ship
the materials to the site, the amount of waste that’s
left over at the end, and where all the energy to power this process actually comes from, you realize pretty quickly
that the amount of carbon that we expend to build just one house. – It’s unbelievable. It’s crazy. You take all of this into account. And we thought, no, we better start actually manufacturing inside. So we rented a small place.
We start to experiment. – An experiment. Most houses are built almost entirely from scratch where they stand. But Reza’s insight was that this process was generally wasteful and expensive, and that that expense stopped
most builders from spending money on making houses
that were energy-efficient. So, he brought the process indoors. He and his partner built a
factory that builds houses. A series of machines that turn raw lumber and materials into a
kind of house in a box that goes up faster and cheaper. They start with a file, a set of instructions that
tells very precise machines how to cut the wood
that makes up the house. The machine cuts the wood
down to the millimeter so there’s almost no scrap wood left over. What little scrap there is gets mulched and used in landscaping. Then, everything gets fit
together like a jigsaw puzzle. They finalize the walls, adding doors, windows, and insulation. And, at that point, the
house is pretty much ready to transport and assemble on site, kind of like a Lego kit. – I guess Lego-esque explains some of it. Everybody- It’s interesting though. It really does have a kind of Silicon Valley shape, sort of. But the other beautiful
thing about that really was that when you start a process, it may be expensive to begin with, but as you do it more and
more, you come up with more innovative ideas that you can actually do better at a better price. So we kept bringing the cost down. And then we had a reason. We said that this thing’s
going to happen anyways. It’s going to be forced on us.
The code’s going to change. And when the code changes, we can build it cheaper than others. And that’s exactly what has happened. – Which brings us to Reza’s new project, a net-zero house for everybody. See, net-zero houses, houses that produce as much energy as they consume, are typically really expensive. Really necessary for us to have a sustainable future that works, but they’re not cheap. Reza realized that by refining
the construction process, he could lower the cost
of building the house, which meant even with the
cost of making it net-zero, his homes could still be
competitive and affordable. It all came down to process. – In the early stages
when the technology wasn’t to that extent developed
and they built some house that looked like a space-age
house, something strange. And people, of course- not
everybody is in love with theirs. Some people are the
diehards, they love that. But we have to build houses
that look like just any house. So we wanted to show everybody that anybody really can buy a net-zero house. So, another $30,000, maybe a
little more, a little less. But if you do the calculation
based on the energy consumption and the cost of energy today, you can recover the cost
in less than 10 years. And after that, you get essentially free electricity, free heat, free- There’s no utilities cost. – This is the future that Reza imagined, where ingenuity, the same
kind of ingenuity it took to make those moon landings
he watched as a kid possible, makes the future feel not
just possible but inevitable. And he doesn’t think
it’s going to stop here. Not by a long shot. – And there is so much technology. So the same kind of
technologies that brought a lot of wealth in the last centuries, the same kind of things actually is happening now with the clean energy. It’s actually going to
bring another renaissance. And that’s going to be the biggest, most major renaissance in this world. That’s going to change things. – On this season of Renewable, we’re going to be looking at people. Engineers, entrepreneurs,
thinkers, and activists, each with their own unique
vision of a sustainable future in the heart of
Canada’s fossil fuel industry. Follow us @yegclimate to find out when new episodes are coming out. And don’t forget to subscribe. Thanks for watching, and
we hope to have you back for the next episode of Renewable.

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