It took an incredible team to create the Net Zero Discovery Home, says the president of Reid’s Heritage Homes, an industry leader in sustainability.
Reid’s Heritage Homes has a history that dates back to 1947, when brothers Melville, George and Albert, along with their partner Bill Lang, began building bungalows in Guelph under the name Reid and Lang.
By the 1970s, Orin (son of George) had created the Reid’s Group, learning the business from his father, starting as a labourer on building sites.
In 1978, Orin and his wife Jane started Reid’s Heritage Homes and, to this day, the company is still family owned and operated by a third generation of Reids and their spouses.
When Orin passed away suddenly in 2000, it left his son, Scott, and son-in-law, Tim Blevins, with a difficult choice; they could either wind down the company or continue to work together and grow the company. Today, the entire family, including Jane, remains involved in the business.
For Blevins, the president of Reid’s Heritage Homes, maintaining the company’s reputation of quality, integrity and forward thinking is one of the motivating factors in creating diverse communities throughout Ontario.
In 2014, Reid’s Heritage was chosen to participate in the National Net Zero Demonstration program — in partnership with Natural Resources Canada and Owens Corning — to represent Southwestern Ontario. It was important that the initiative differ from past Net Zero project houses, which have been typical custom-built homes. The mission for the selected builders was to gear the homes to the lowrise production builder, using products that are readily available on the market today.
By definition, a Net Zero Energy home produces as much energy as it uses on an annual basis. Net Zero Energy homes have been around for many years, but have typically been custom built and at a significantly higher cost than a regular house. The challenge of the project was to find ways to build the homes on a larger scale, thereby reducing their price. Reid’s Heritage unveiled their Net Zero Discovery Home in September, 2015, and is now open to the public by appointment. Four Net Zero Energy homes have also recently been released for sale in the Westminster Woods community of Guelph.
Condo Life: Reid’s Heritage Homes has a great family story. As you look back to the 1940s and the history of the company, is there one point you think was a watershed moment?
Tim Blevins: Not one moment in particular. In 1947, the three brothers and Bill Lang started this company and in 1978 Orin started Reid’s Heritage Homes. It has evolved over a period of time and we have a great team that works very hard at building high quality homes.
CL: What have been the strongest influences in your professional life? Do you have someone you would consider a mentor?
TB: Certainly my father and my father-in-law have been my mentors. We’re a very close family and we’re all involved in the company in one way or another.
CL: When did Reid’s Heritage decide to make the leap into building energy-efficient homes and Net Zero homes?
TB: There wasn’t one specific thing; there was no big leap. It just seemed like the right thing to do. We have always thought we could build better than the Ontario Building Code, and we were quite intrigued about new ways of building and the science behind it.
We started with building to the Energy Star standard and in 2008 we moved the bar higher and built a home that was LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum. But that level of construction requires custom work and cannot be mass-produced at this time.
CL: Do you think that buyers will see the value in Net Zero homes and start demanding these homes more actively in the market?
TB: Yes. In fact, a recent survey by Genworth Canada shows that 72 per cent of millennials consider energy efficiency as one of the most important factors in buying a home. This generation knows that it’s time to get it right.
This is a generation that is paying off their mortgages faster and making larger down payments. According to the survey, 57 per cent of these buyers do not take on new debt.
They are willing to pay a premium for energy efficiency because they know it’s the right thing to do. They will pay a premium for a healthier lifestyle, for healthier air, and lower gas emissions. They know it makes sense financially and environmentally.
We’re not there yet because these homes still can’t be massproduced, but we’re working on it. That is what the Net Zero program is about. And the cost is coming down, too. For instance, the cost of solar panels has dropped, as has LED lighting. Over time, these homes will be more cost effective.
CL: You make some bold statements about the benefits of the Net Zero home. How does Reid’s Heritage make such a statement and why?
TB: Since there is less reliance on the power grid, there are significant savings in energy costs all year round, as well as protecting families from future price increases. The home provides a healthier, more comfortable living space with better indoor air quality and stable temperatures. The home is also built with healthier building materials, conserves resources and lowers greenhouse gas emission. The benefits are measurable and have been proven.
CL: What are the key building elements for the Net Zero home?
TB: The homes are built with air source heat pumps, highefficiency water heaters, triple pane windows, air exchangers, higher insulation in the basement slab, walls and attic, sealing against air leakage, and use solar panels for energy production.
The Net Zero Discovery Home is also providing valuable feedback that we are learning from.
CL: Reid’s Heritage has a great reputation for not only building quality homes, but for being community builders. How does that align with the business and philanthropic philosophy?
TB: We believe in community. It’s a core part of our business and, to that end, we stay involved in the communities where we build. We have a great charitable program that supports many initiatives in those communities, including hospitals. We also give back to charities that have touched us in some way, and for that reason support children’s cancer research and Alzheimer’s programs. What we do is small but it is part of a much larger picture.
CL: What has made you proudest?
TB: Working with the people who make it happen. These are people who are willing to step out of their comfort zones and try new things. These things don’t just happen — it takes months and years — and our team is dedicated to driving into new frontiers.
The Net Zero home was a big mountain to climb and our team did it.
CURRENTLY FOR SALE
Collingwood: Silver Glen Preserve
Fergus: Westminster Highlands
Guelph: Net Zero Homes in Westminster Woods
Guelph: Village by the Arboretum
Kincardine: Inverlyn Lake Estates
Kitchener: Williamsburg Walk
Meaford: Gates of Kent
Owen Sound: The Residences of Cobble Beach
Port Elgin: Summerside
Thornbury: Lora Bay