SAIT’s latest project aims to become one of the most environmentally-friendly homes in the world

One of the greenest homes on Earth is taking shape in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Named “The Confluence,” it produces more energy than it uses, captures water on site and creates a positive impact on its people and environment.

The home, located in Alberta, Canada, northwest of Calgary, is a partnership between Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s (SAIT) Green Building Technologies (GBT), Woodpecker European Timber Framing and an Alberta family. The project aims to achieve full certification of the home through the Living Building Challenge (LBC) — the world’s most rigorous green building rating system and sustainable design framework. If successful, it is anticipated to be the world’s fourth home of its kind.

“Having a family, becoming a parent and being responsible for their lives, is the reason why we built a Living Building Challenge home — one that protects their health and the environment,” says homeowner Gerton Molenaar. “SAIT and Woodpecker helped us fulfill this dream.”

Molenaar says it’s been an exciting journey for him and his wife Joleen and notes the bigger implications of the project. “I think about the next generation and how it links to the essence of the Living Building Challenge — to change the world one green building at a time.”

The challenge goes far beyond installing solar panels and low-flow toilets. To achieve LBC certification, the 2,238 sq. ft. custom home must adhere to seven areas of sustainability — from growing their own food through to incorporating biophilic design elements — during the phases of design, construction, operation and end-of-life. For example, SAIT’s GBT LBC project team and the homeowners searched far and wide for salvaged materials, vetted more than 800 products for toxicity and diverted approximately 90-100% of construction waste from landfills.

After three years of construction, The Confluence will now undergo a 12-month process to certification — a process SAIT and its partners will monitor and report on during the coming year. 

“The Confluence is unlike the three other fully certified LBC projects before it,” says Tracey Chala, Principal Investigator, SAIT Green Building Technologies. “The home is located in a remote hamlet bound by the challenges of a northern climate compared to its suburban, more southerly counterparts. And, where some of those other projects had budgets of several million, this home will be completed for a fraction of that.” 

Knowing the value of applied education, the GBT team — five of whom are SAIT graduates themselves — involved 19 SAIT students to work on this unique project. Students gained career-building experience which included sourcing sustainably-certified wood, researching non-toxic cleaning products, designing the project website, and creating architectural renderings. 

“The project was beyond anything I could have imagined in a traditional classroom setting. It was certainly a highlight in my education, and a rewarding experience to have been a part of the team,” says Keith Leung, a SAIT graduate who worked on the project in his second year practicum of the Architectural Technologies program.

Leung says he’s since moved on to work for a great architectural firm. He adds he will always look back on the experience as it motivates him to continue to learn about and help advance a more sustainable future in the building and construction industry.

“The Confluence is exactly the type of project that showcases SAIT’s technological and skills leadership in delivering real world solutions,” says Dr. David Ross, SAIT President and CEO. 

“Together with our students and partners, we are building what’s next. Through projects such as this, we are equipping our students in trades and technology to not only drive innovation in Alberta, but to lead it globally.” 

SAIT is grateful for the funding support of this project from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of CanadaAlberta InnovatesEnvironmental Careers Organization (ECO) CanadaUnited Nations Association of Canada and Clean Foundation.