Nichole’s Report

Colin and Nicole are students in the Building Sciences Dept. at BCIT
Colin and Nichole

Nichole and Colin visited our house last January. Remember? They were students in Building Sciences at BCIT.

It was Colin who was initially interested in doing a long term study of some kind, but he got a job in the spring and was too busy to continue.

Nichole, however, followed through. It has been months since she published her study entitled:

Evaluating Interior Environmental Conditions of a Maple Ridge Home

Nichole's Cover PageRivetting title isn’t it?

Well I found it fascinating and a really good read, but I acknowledge that most of you probably stopped reading at “Interior”.

This is a big problem. Even people studying Building Sciences would generally much rather study new buildings than old buildings but it is mostly old buildings which are the inefficient ones. This hit home for me when Nichole and Colin’s professor, Dr. Rodgrigo Mora, came by last month to remove the sensors. They are needed to monitor other buildings for other projects that other students are interested in–newer buildings.


If there is one thing I have learned from my fight to make buildings more efficient is that knocking down all the old ones and building new ones defeats the purpose. The real challenge is to make it easier and cheaper for people to make their homes comfortable and reduce their energy use so they want to stay in them longer.

Rodrigo likes the idea of gathering data on the interior air quality before and after retrofitting the house. Although Nichole finished her report in April, the sensors were active until November, so another student could do that if they wanted to. Anyone?

And last week Rodrigo wrote:

Rodrigo Mora, Faculty of Building Sciences, BCIT
Dr. Rodrigo Mora, Faculty of Building Sciences, BCIT

I also remember about our discussion on making this comparison in parallel between your house and a net-zero house that we are monitoring in Burnaby. I will come back to you on this too soon…

I’m going to share pieces of Nichole’s report every week and put it into context for you. Seriously, it’s going to be awesome!

Here is Nichole’s introduction which sums up the story so far nicely:


The Whitehead property, located at 11406 205 Street in Maple Ridge, BC, was originally constructed in 1923. The house has undergone minor renovations since its construction, but still retains much of its original characteristics. The house is a two-storey wood framed building with a basement that is half below-grade. The main floor of the house consists of a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom, office, and solarium. The second floor of the house has two bedrooms, used by the family’s children, and has access hatches to the attic spaces. Floor plans are included in Appendix A of this report.

The current owners, descendants of the original owner, are interested in retrofitting the house to improve its energy performance. In addition, they intend to document the process to hopefully create a demonstration project to provide guidance for other homeowners with similar motivations.

The intended renovations include upgrading the basement and attic insulation, as well as adding additional living space to the home. The Whitehead project was partly inspired by the similar Now House project, completed in Toronto in 2008, which provided an example for retrofitting an older house to achieve net zero energy use. The 60 year old house was retrofitted, including increasing the insulation of the walls, basement floor, and roof; replacing the windows with better insulation windows; and adding solar heating and photovoltaic panels to the roof.

Colin Tougas, M.A.Sc. candidate at BCIT, is assisting with the Whitehead project as his thesis project at BCIT. The heritage status of the house creates many unique challenges for retrofitting, as the original character must be maintained.

This project aims to evaluate the current state of the indoor environmental quality in the Whitehead home, to assist in evaluating strategies for improving the IEQ and providing a baseline against which to measure the improvements.

Tune in next time as Nichole shares the data and draws her conclusions!

Published by

James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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