Story  by MOLLY HARDING – St. Catharines Standard – Advertising Features Writer

People have become used to the terms EnerGuide and Energy Star. The terms denote a product has reached a very high level of energy efficiency and the rating can usually be seen on tags attached to things such as washing machines and other major appliances.

When the Energy Star rating has been applied to a house, however, it means the whole house meets Canada’s energy efficiency targets. And that’s why Premium Building Group (PBG) is getting lots of interest and acclaim for the small enclave of townhouses it’s installing on Niagara Street.

For ALL of these houses will be Energy Star rated. Not only will they be rated for energy efficiency, but will consequently be more cost efficient and more comfortable to live in.

Niagara’s new home builders are not sitting back and waiting for the 2010 target date Canada has set for this move to energy efficiency of new homes. PBG has already made the move and other Niagara builders are moving in the same direction. It’s nice to see they are taking the initiative well before the year they will have to meet this same Energy Star level of performance or the EnerGuide 80 rating.

The 20 PBG condominium town houses in the up-on-niagara complex will be built behind the company’s three detached houses on Niagara Street, which themselves meet the standard. The townhouses will incorporate recycled materials, on-demand German-designed hot water systems (so you’re not paying to heat water when you don’t need it), plastic ductwork for heating and cooling and insulation where you would not normally find it, such as the garage door.

Natural gas is the heating and cooking fuel, of course, which is both more energy efficient and less expensive than other fuels, and windows are all low-E argon filled. It’s interesting to note that Energy Star rated housing reduces greenhouse gas emissions by about three tonnes per year, while Canada’s goal is for every household to reduce by one tonne a year. By this early move to

Energy Star housing, Niagara’s new home builders are obviously on the right track.

In the model home, The SCOTT design, at 413 Niagara St., you can see many of the greener aspects of the up-on-niagara town houses, which will have both bungalows and two-storey homes.

The model home is a unique two-storey, with open concept main floor beyond the ceramic-floored foyer. At right is the kitchen, with designer-styled maple cabinetry, a gas stove and built-in dishwasher as well as a two-tier combination counter/breakfast bar. The laundry has a stacking washer/drier with gas fuelled drier. A pantry is located a little further on, before the room opens out to the living and dining areas.

Note the lovely soft-toned birch hardwood floors throughout most of the main floor, as well as the halogen pot-lights that are used everywhere.

A gas fireplace draws the eye in the living room. Angled across one corner, it makes excellent use of space and also provides for a mantelpiece big enough to accommodate a plasma television.

A deck is currently being built outside the garden door off the living room. Big windows in both living and dining rooms bring in lots of natural light.

The master bedroom is located on the main floor and has a big ensuite bathroom with one-piece Mirolin tub and shower enclosure. Moen pressure balance faucets are also energy efficient, and while you’re in there, take a look at the double crown mouldings in the bathroom! The same moulding is seen in the two-piece washroom on this floor. It’s unique touches such as this that have earned PBG its reputation for excellence. The nine-foot ceiling and two big double closets are bonuses in the bedroom.

On the wall outside the master bedroom is a neat control set-up for the main mechanics of the house, such as humidity level, fireplace and fan and timer. It also shows the heating and cooling of the house, so you can program time and day you want it turned on. The house is also pre-wired for a security system and has central air conditioning as standard features. There is also a rough-in for central vacuum.

The basement is ready to finish but is fully insulated and divided into what could be a home office or rec-room and another bedroom. The ceiling is 8.5 feet high and there’s a rough-in for another bathroom as well as another laundry. The concrete floor was saw-cut, so there are none of the usual hairline cracks. There’s a manifold system by the forced air gas furnace to allow easy access to gas valve connections for all gas appliances. And there’s that tiny control box for the on-demand hot water system – not a hot water tank in sight – so you only pay for the amount of water you heat and you will never run out of hot water!

Now look up into the ceiling and you will see the plastic waterline system. It’s quiet to run – virtually a silent system, with no clanking or banging. The floors are silent, too, as they are all screwed as well as nailed down. Another thing to check out is the sump pump, with its innards underground and so invisible — no unsightly pipes.

Now head upstairs and onto the second floor, where a sitting room is situated outside the two bedrooms. The bedrooms both have walk-in closets and ensuite access to the bathroom, though the toilet and bath have a privacy door, so the two washbasins can be used independently.

Another unique touch: Switches have been positioned beside the beds for easy control of bedside lamps and there’s wiring and control for a television.
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