If you are looking for non-toxic cabinetry materials for shelving, we recently did a lot of interior finishing on our new Demonstration house in Wakefield QC with a formaldehyde-free UV treated plywood called PureBond from Columbia forest production, try that out.
If you are looking for a box store solution, to the best of our knowledge the manufacturing process of Ikea in North America is the same as in Europe where they meet a high standard of low-toxicity for their cabinetry materials. We have asked the company to confirm this and we will update the page as soon as we hear back from them.
For choosing flooring materials, there are options such as cork or marmoleum, be sure to get a low or zero VOC adhesives such as Bostik GreenForce, building adhesives are where some of the most nasty fumes will come from if you don't select them carefully. I hope some of these pages help, have a read and let me know if you have any additional questions.
I have as many questions as answers unfortunately, but it will at least get us started. First of all, where exactly are you located in relation to Vancouver? Prices will vary a lot by region so it's very difficult to pin down a cost for you, you're better to get even a ballpark from individual builders. We don't have a list of regional builders for you unfortunately, but if you aren't too far out of Vancouver I would recommend looking into a Vancouver company called Lane Fab Design Build, even if they aren't close enough to build it for you they can help you with design, and possibly supply you with prefab walls as well, maybe even give you the name of another suitable builder if you're out of their range.
And are you looking just to build to a Net Zero standard or to get it certified? If so here is the Canadian Home Builders Association page on their Net Zero program, they may also be a resource to help you find a builder. I didn't want to leave you hanging too long without an answer, but I have a few lines out asking for more information for you, hopefully I will be able to add more to this soon.
Where do I start to build a small, affordable, low-maintenance house?
What we can do is give you a list of things to consider and things you will need to decide on. This is at least a starting place, feel free to ask follow up questions about any of it, here goes!
A ‘Tiny House’ is typically on wheels, but in our opinion, immoveable homes are better. If you are looking for a mobile tiny house, here are a few links to check out:
If you are looking for a stationary house, you need a piece of land to build on. I’m not sure, but do you have that land already? Great if so, but before purchasing a building lot I would check with the local municipality if they have a minimum home size requirement, and if that is a size you are comfortable with. Here are some pages to help.
Choosing between a slab on grade and basement – slabs are cheaper, more ‘eco-friendly, healthier and more durable. You can buy a prefab slab kit, or you can have one designed by an engineer and build it yourself (with your army of helpers) Keep in mind, depending on site conditions an soft costs such as engineering and permitting, one isn’t always cheaper than the other between prefab and hand made, so price them out.
We will have more news in the near future about innovative prefab kit homes that are LEED Certified and Passive House ‘ready’, in that they are of a quality that can meet those requirements. That’s a good thing for living off grid because it keeps your heating costs down, which In your case I imagine is likely firewood? Some solar heating options are linked below.
This is probably waaaayyy more info that you were expecting, and some you may have read before but I just wanted to make sure you found a few of our more obscure and interesting off grid articles. You can find all that stuff and more in the Ecohome Building Guide Pages, but also pop in any keyword like 'off grid' in the search box at the top of every page and you will find even more. Good luck!