After completing a design workshop for high performance wall systems, teachers at the New Frontiers School Board in Ormstown, QC have settled on a building envelope that will outperform houses built to code by a factor of almost 3. The school will be releasing videos following the progress of this first of its kind project, check out episode 1.

As the carpentry program coordinator of NFSB in Ormstown, QC, Alice Loney wants to make sure her students will be ready to meet the demands of a changing market that is increasingly looking for healthier and more sustainable housing options.

Ormstown is on the edge of the Eastern Townships, and as you drive in, you notice instantly that it is everything you would hope and expect a cozy small town to be. New Frontiers contacted Ecohome to help achieve LEED certification in a student house building project, and so far it looks like they will do very well.

The design is by no means completed; it is still in the very early stages. The teachers are taking advantage of this opportunity to come up with any and all green features they can think of, all while ensuring this house fits in with its future neighbourhood and that it is affordable to build and operate.

Ordinarily, a Habitat for Humanity house has a family picked out before construction begins - not so in this case. This poses an additional challenge for the teachers during the design process, but one that will be another excellent learning experience for their students.

When Habitat chooses a family, they look for one that needs help the most. Without having one picked out, this house will have to be ready to meet whatever challenges that future family may have, a design philosophy best described as 'flexible housing'.

Over the course of its lifespan, a house will likely be altered many times, how difficult and expensive those changes will be depends largely on the initial design. In this case the teachers are looking to create a versatile house ready for easy transformation, universal access, healthy indoor air quality, easy maintenance and comfort, all in one affordable little package.

Their other big challenge is Quebec union building laws. Unlike most other provinces, to get on a building site in Quebec you need to be certified and part of a union, two things their students are not. So the majority of this work needs to be done at the school, then shipped to the site. Conveniently, in a town the size of Ormstown that means a few blocks away.

The energy in and around this project is palpable, and contagious. As word travels of what New Frontiers has in mind, other Quebec schools are talking about trying similar projects, and are working on collaborative efforts with New Frontiers to explore some seriously high-end building techniques.

NFSB is setting itself up to be a regional leader in teaching green building practices. The students who walk out their doors will enter a job market that is increasingly demanding better performing homes and they will have the skills that homeowners and builders will be looking for.

The school is hosting a fundraiser on October 25th to facilitate this project, known as 'Our House', and they have a great list of performers shaping up. Not least of which are the teachers themselves, as almost every one of them seems to play guitar. Should be a good show.