Mersey Tobeatic Green Technology Demonstration Site

Project Overview

Project Title: Mersey Tobeatic Green Technology Demonstration Site
Location: 9 Mt. Merritt Rd., Kempt, NS
Building Type: Residential, 4 bedroom
Building Area: 3,700 sq. ft.
Building Cost: $350,000
Date of Completion: October 2011
Building Owners: Cooperative Ownership
Design Team:
      • Project Coordinator – Jesse Saroli
      • Executive Director – Amanda Lavers
      • Office Manager – Wendy Whynot
      • Contractor – Terje Rogers
      • Contractor – Sgt. Hugh Pinault
      • HVAC Contractor – Neil Mader
      • Foundation Contractor – Richard Meisner
      • Past Building Committee Chair – Jeffie McNeil
      • Present Building Committee Chair – Pierre Martel
      • LEED for Homes Provider – ThermalWise
      • Architect – Harry Jost
      • Chair Board of Directors – Colin Grey
      • Treasurer Board of Directors – Diane Clapp


The Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI) is a small non-profit cooperative that operates a field station in Kempt, NS. Promoting sustainable forest and energy use and protection and monitoring of species-at-risk are their main areas of focus. The MTRI field station provides living space for staff and researchers from around the world. It is also used as an area to perform research and outreach activities.

The MTRI field station is being improved by adding a new two-story 16x28 foot addition to the main building. This green gut rehab will introduce more space for the staff and researchers and make it a better overall research center. The new addition includes a laboratory, an animal care facility, a second bathroom and designated public space for meetings, presentations and workshops.

Design Intent

The MTRI project wanted to dramatically reduce the energy consumption of the facility. The building was to be a model of sustainable energy use for the South-West Nova Scotia Area. The MTRI took on the green gut rehab in order to meet these goals.

It was originally envisioned as a way to showcase a publically accessible demonstration site of green technology and green building practices. The goal is to provide a place where members of the public can see green technology in action in a building on the scale of a small home. They can take this information and apply it to their own new or existing homes.

The MTRI is hoping to achieve LEED Canada for Homes Platinum certification, the highest level of LEED certification. In addition, the MTRI is attempting to locally source as much of the labour and as many of the materials used as possible. The MTRI holds this as a mandate for all projects undertaken.

Key Design Features

As a green technology demonstration site, a variety of green technologies are used. A 4-ton geothermal ground source heat pump heats and cools the building. Electricity is provided to the building by a 3kW solar photovoltaic system and a 1.5 kW wind turbine. Both of these are grid-tied through a net metering contract with Nova Scotia Power. The building’s hot water needs are covered by a solar hot water system and a Cansolair panel provides supplemental heating.

To reduce energy consumption, a more efficient geothermal unit replaced the air-air heat pump and electric baseboard heaters of the original building. The basement and exterior walls of the building have been insulated to reduce energy lost through heat transfer. CFL’s and fluorescent lighting, which are very energy efficient, has been added to every room.

The MTRI uses water efficiently. Low flow fixtures are used to reduce water use. The downstairs bathroom and animal care facility are being connected to a grey water recycling system. The water will be stored in a cistern and used for outdoor use. A large rainwater harvesting system is being planned and will collect and store more than 2000 liters of water for outdoor use.

The site is covered with a semi-mature stand of red pine, which is being thinned to allow for diversification and habitat restoration. Parts of the landscape will allow for the growth of native low bush blueberries as well as gardens for native fruits and vegetables. Native shrubs and trees have been planted on the remaining landscaped area. A rain garden with native berry bushes is planned for the area disturbed by the project. Since the building is located in an area that gets a lot of rain the lawn will never need to be watered. The gardens will be watered using recycled gray water exclusively.

Since this was a gut-rehab the site location was non-negotiable. Attention was given to maximize the amount of south facing roof. The addition was placed the side of the building where the land had previously been developed.

The MTRI prides itself on its waste reduction. Most waste is recycled and organic waste is composted and used in the gardens. During the building project waste was kept to a minimum, and much of the waste was recycled on site.

The wood used for the interior was locally sourced and FSC certified pine. The new floors will be FSC certified bamboo, and the cement for the foundation walls was produced locally. The paints and coatings used in the interior will be low-VOC and environmentally friendly. The insulation used in the building is also environmentally friendly, and soya based spray foam is used on the building exterior.

A heat recovery ventilation unit (HRV) helps increase the indoor air quality. The geothermal HVAC unit was fitted with ultra high quality MERV13 air filters to remove impurities.

The wide array of green technology and green building practices makes this building stand out. These are complemented by the goal of education on sustainability and conservation.

Post-Occupancy Performance

The central server computer at MTRI monitors and records the performance of the building’s solar hot water system. It is planned to have similar monitoring for the wind, geothermal, solar photovoltaic, and solar air system. Homeowners interested in implementing these renewable energy systems could then be provided with concrete data on the performance and efficiency of the systems.

There will be room for green improvements as long as MTRI is consuming even a little bit of energy from non-renewable sources. Potential green improvements for the future include additional panels for the modular solar photovoltaic system.

Final Thoughts

Most of the difficulties encountered during this project were due to time constraints of sourcing green building materials as the construction was in progress. In future projects, conducting research on sources of green building materials before construction begins would be very beneficial.

A recommendation to other homeowners wishing to build a green home is that attention to detail is important, as many parts of a building can often get overlooked in the planning phase. A comprehensive plan that covers what you want in your home, how you intend to build it, and materials you intend to use will be key during the building process.