Golden Age Technology
Come Visit the Calgary EcoHome      
Greetings environmentally-aware viewers and welcome to Golden Age Technology on Supreme Master Television. Today we travel to the city of Calgary, Canada to meet two veteran designers of eco-friendly structures who will show us how various green technologies can be easily integrated into buildings to make them more sustainable.

I am Helen Ostrowski and right here beside me is my husband Jorg Ostrowski. We are located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and we live in the house right here behind us. This is where we work and live a sustainable lifestyle.

When I was a child, we enjoyed camping, sailing, skating, skiing outdoors and picking blueberries. So that became a passion to protect that beautiful heritage that the world has and so we want to do our part.

The Ostrowskis are both architects with nearly 70 years of architectural experience between them. The pair has been recognized on many occasions for their fine work and are co-recipients of the “Green Award,” “Emerald Award for Environmental Excellence” (Small Business category), “Autonomous House Award” and the “Northeast Sustainable Energy Association Quality Design Award” (Single-Family Home category).

Together with another architect, the Ostrowskis are co-owners of Autonomous & Sustainable Housing Incorporated, also known as “ASH,” which specializes in “Ecobuildings” and “Ecodevelopment.” Through the years the couple has designed many residential, commercial, and municipal architectural projects across the globe.

In 2009, the pair served as consultants to the mayor of Puerto Princesa, the largest city in the Philippines, on a large-scale, eco-focused municipal redevelopment initiative. For 17 years they have lived in a self-built model green residence that does not connect with city water, sewer, or natural gas lines. You might wonder, “How is this possible?” Let’s find out by visiting the Calgary EcoHome, also known as the Alberta Sustainable Home/Office, which has been featured in press articles, international journals and textbooks and toured by 70,000 people since its completion in 1994.

The section of Calgary that we’re in is the northwest. As you can see, this is a normal suburban area and this is a single family home, but it has no basement. It’s one and a half stories high. It has a livable attic to minimize the amount of heat loss and to maximize the amount of useable area.

The EcoHome was built using simple construction methods and durable, environmentally-friendly materials. It features a space-efficient design, a system to promote good indoor air quality and excellent insulation to minimize heat dissipation. As for energy requirements, the house primarily relies upon solar power, but does not use solar photovoltaic panels. Instead the EcoHome collects solar energy by other means.

We have lots of windows on the south side to allow passive solar gain into the house to warm up the house.

The passive solar through the windows provides about 65% of all the heating and then internal heat gain from people, from lights, computers, is about 25%.

On the outside, we also have the dark stucco that can not only absorb the passive solar energy, but also store it.

We use hot water solar collectors. And usually we use about two of those for domestic hot water, and about four of them for space heating.

And so that goes into mass as you see behind us, in bricks, mass in the floor, mass in the building materials. So it is important not only to collect the solar energy, but also to be able to store it.

Seventy percent of our energy requirements and energy bills are in the form of heat required for space heating. The other 30% of the utility bill for most houses is for domestic hot water.

All cooking is done with solar powered appliances. Helen Ostrowski explains further.

This one is the solar oven. And this is the reflector. It concentrates the light of the Sun, and directs it to the inside of this insulated box. The pot that we use for cooking or baking should be dark, because then it will absorb the heat. The bricks that we have added also store more heat. And the black interior of the solar oven will allow the inside to heat much quicker.

To prevent heat dissipation, the house’s exhaust air first passes through a Heat Recovery Ventilator or HRV, which transfers the stale air’s warmth to the incoming fresh air. Efficient thermal insulation keeps the EcoHome warm in winter and cool in summer.

How do we select our insulation? Well, we want to make sure that the insulation that we use is as environmentally-sound as possible. It should be cost-effective, easy to work with and provide a number of functions. It should deter heat loss or heat conduction from the inside to the outside. It should reduce the summer heat gain from the warm outside to the inside. It should act as an air barrier. It should act as a fire barrier.

To prevent heat loss through windows, the EcoHome uses airtight “high performance windows.” These windows feature multiple panes of glass and polyester and are filled with inert gas. The windows also allow ample natural light to pass through, thus brightening the EcoHome.

We also have Venetian blinds that are light colored on one side and dark on the other side. In the winter if you have the dark side facing the Sun, you can generate heat, and give it off into the house. In the summer, when you don’t want the heat, then you turn the Venetian blinds where the lighter side faces the outside, to reflect the heat away.

And then we also have window quilts. When it’s really, really cold then we put this down. If there was a power outage and there is no other source of heating, a standard house would freeze within 24 hours. But a house like this, because of the insulation, it will take two weeks before it freezes.

For interior spaces that have no windows, we use Sun pipes. There’s a reflector on the north side that reflects the south light down and then we have the prismatic diffuser, that’s all natural light, free of charge, no electricity.

Keeping food cold consumes huge amounts of power in a conventional residence. How do the Ostrowskis deal with the challenge of minimizing energy use with regards to food storage?

We use the refrigerator and freezer in the summertime. In the wintertime, starting October until May, we use the cool closet. It's like a pantry, but located on the outside wall of the house. (It is) well insulated and we have two openings, one at the bottom for letting in the cold air, and another opening on the top to exhaust warm air. And we can achieve seven degrees Celsius just like in a refrigerator.

In terms of water needs, the house is completely self-sufficient.

We have the two water systems in the house. One is rainwater coming from the roof. It is stored in a cistern in the backyard underneath our deck. And that provides for all our drinking water and for cooking as well. We have three filter systems before the water is released through our faucets in the kitchen and also in the bathroom. And we also have another system, which is the gray water system, which reuses water from bathing, from the showers, and from washing dishes, and also from laundry.

To my left here is the air-lock greenhouse. This is also where we treat our gray water, the planter box. In this planter box we have layers of sand, gravel and earth. And this was used as the natural filter for gray water.

Human waste is treated through a water-free composting chamber that also composts other organic matter.

This is a very interesting waste disposal system; it takes in waste from the toilet upstairs, uses no water, and saves an average Canadian family of four 200,000 liters of water per year by not flushing. And the waste that goes into this system is converted into fertilizer. Waste can be mixed with anything that’s biodegradable, including vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, and leftover food.

The fertilizer is then used in the couple’s organic garden.

Instead of a lawn, we have an organic garden with vegetables and edible flowers and medicinal edible herbs. And for the time spent and the effort spent in maintaining a garden, we found that it just makes more sense and is more profitable to grow one’s own food.

The Ostrowskis always think carefully about how their actions affect the biosphere.

We try to promote the home/ office (concept) where possible, because it involves less driving for people. They can work from a house that they have invested (in), so they can use it beyond just sleeping. And we have a smart car, that is very efficient. We try to use it only once a week when we have meetings outside of our home/office. Then we try to concentrate it on that one day in the week when we do all our errands and shopping. We try to walk wherever we can.

I think that if most people or all people on the planet were vegan, that probably would be the easiest and most pragmatic long-term healthy solution for planet Earth. We know that from our own experience it is much more efficient. A lot of our diet consists of raw food. We eat a lot of salads. We grow a lot of our own vegetables.

Finally, Jorg Ostrowski shares his final thoughts on creating a greener world.

Safe drinking water and healthy soil are key aspects of a sustainable future.

It is absolutely critical to have healthy soil and safe water, if you look at it globally, because many people do not have healthy soil or safe drinking water. We still use drinking water for flushing our toilet. That’s why we have a compost toilet. It saves 200,000 liters of drinking water (per year). There is no reason that we should be using drinking water for flushing toilets.

Thank you Jorg and Helen Ostrowski for providing a tour of the Calgary EcoHome and sharing your insights on Earth-friendly architecture and living. May you continue to build sustainable structures that set the standard for treating our planet with kindness.

For more details on the Calgary EcoHome, please visit

Supportive viewers, we appreciated your company on today’s Golden Age Technology. Up next on Supreme Master Television is Vegetarianism: The Noble Way of Living, after Noteworthy News. May we always make eco-sensible choices in our daily lives.

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