Homesol Building Solutions' 850-sq.-ft., $100,000 LivelyUp Sustainable Training Centre is already under construction in McDonald's Corners, about 80 km southeast of Ottawa.
"We're trying to get the roof in before the snow," says Ross Elliott, the company's founder. He explains the project is about three weeks behind schedule, but should still be complete by early 2010.
The centre aims to train a new generation of builders to use environmentally-friendly materials and construction techniques. Classes will cost $250 per person, per day, in one- to two-day courses on attaining certain eco-construction certifications, including Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Energy Star, and R-2000.
Building-supplies company Owens Corning is a partner, providing advanced building materials including insulation, shingles, and noise-control systems.
Mr. Elliot isn't exactly new at this. He has more than 25 years of experience advising construction companies on eco-minded development. Homesol's main revenue comes from providing certifications and training through classes and seminars conducted at universities, home shows and other places. Elliott is scheduled to lead a LEED Homes workshop at Enbridge Inc.'s Coventry Road facility on Nov. 25.
Mr. Elliot says Homesol hasn't disclosed revenue projections for the new facility, because the centre is an extension of the firm's existing business. But he adds it might allow Mr. Elliott and his company partner and wife Kathryn Elliott to travel a little less for business. "It's a lot of what we already do – educating builders, homeowners, and the trades (on) how to advance building performance," he says.
Mr. Elliott adds that the facility is strategically placed halfway between Kingston and Ottawa, and also halfway between Toronto and Montreal. But according to others in the construction industry, that's not all that's strategic about Homesol's project.
Matthew Sachs, general manager of Urbandale Construction, points out that Ontario's building standards are about to change. "In 2012... they're switching up to the Energy Star standard," he says. The Energy Star for New Homes initiative offers guidelines for building houses some 30 per cent more energy efficient than those built to today's standards.
Urbandale already adheres to the Energy Star benchmark, but often it takes training for builders to get there. Developers still on the eco-learning curve might find facilities like the Homesol's LivelyUp centre useful, Mr. Sachs explains. "They have to learn," he says.
John Herbert, president of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association (GOHBA), notes that green construction practices are becoming the norm, thanks in part to government guidelines and new techniques that make it less expensive for builders to meet high-efficiency standards.
But he also acknowledges what some call the joke of the industry: buyers often say they're willing to pay extra for environmentally-friendly construction and energy-efficient houses; but when it comes time to sign the cheque, they often choose granite counter tops over high-efficiency furnaces.
"Builders have made it compulsory, so buyers don't have a choice," Mr. Herbert says.
Mr. Elliott says Homesol hopes to attract homebuilders and trades, as well as eco-minded homeowners.
But he adds it could be a challenge to convince companies to come to the training centre for the education. "It's got to be worth their time and money" to send employees for the enviro-education, he says.
Still, the centre will build its own reputation for teaching companies how to build efficiently and profitably, he says. And even if it's still difficult to convince homebuyers to pay extra for that high-efficiency furnace, it'll be easier to sell green-friendly construction when it's stamped with sanctioning labels like LEED, R-2000 and Energy Star. "That's something builders can sell," Mr. Elliott says.
By Stefan Dubowski, special to the OBJ