Renovation of a 1912 House to Net Zero

Author: Wendy Littlefield, Yale Class of ‘79 & Don Feinberg, Yale Class of ‘78
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada

The Action

We set out to demonstrate that it was possible to retrofit a leaky hundred-year-old house to net zero… and in our case to derive 100% of the power from solar panels. After one and a half years of research, and another eighteen months of demo and construction, the goal has been met. Ours is also the first net zero example in Canada of insulating on top of the existing stucco façade. The city believes what we are doing is scalable. For our efforts, the city of Victoria has named us climate champions.

Climate Impact

“By switching away from an old fossil fuel heating system and by putting great effort into whole home energy efficiency upgrades, the Fernwood Net Zero retrofit project contributes to meeting our ambitious climate targets. The project has gone above and beyond and has redefined what the “home of the future” looks like. We hope it will inspire others in the community to take action and make their homes more climate-friendly.”

– John Ho, Community Energy Specialist, City of Victoria

We are working with allies to have them tell the story of the house and encourage others to take action. Case studies are being been undertaken by Loewen (window manufacturer), Mitsubishi (heat pump), Rockwool (insulation), Viridian (solar panels) and Part & Whole (local furniture-maker).  It is being featured in media: Canadian House and Home, Capital News Daily and CBC radio; and in government-sponsored programs at the municipal (City of Victoria) provincial and national (Better Homes BC) levels to promote energy-efficient retrofits.  Our project was named  2021’s “best residential renovation over $300,000 on Vancouver Island” by The Canadian Home Builders Association.

In October 2021, Victoria became one of only two municipalities in Canada to launch a free solar mapping tool. CBC radio coverage of the program and our house aired in the days leading up to COP-26. Our residence is thought to be the first in the city to be entirely powered by solar panels.

How to Get Involved

We developed a website to chronicle the journey to net zero to help others use what we have learned and build upon it with their own homes.

Now that the house is complete, our aim is to network with municipal agencies, environmental interest groups and other influencers on Vancouver Island and across BC to hasten the pace of adoption of deep energy retrofits as an affordable alternative to demolition.