Energy Efficiency Alberta – Home Improvement Rebate Program

Starting April 28, rebates will be available for the following eligible home improvement products under the new Energy Efficiency Alberta – Home Improvement Rebate Program.  In order To take part in the Home Improvement Rebate program, homeowners must work with a registered contractor.

Hillson Homes is a registered contractor, and is be able to help their clients take advantage of the available rebates which are applicable to their improvement projects…

Insulation – Up to $3,500 for insulation added to a home’s attic, main walls, basement or pony walls. Rebates will be based on where the insulation is applied, how much insulation is added, and how many square feet receive the upgrade. Types of insulation that qualify include rolls or batts, blown-in, loose fill, rigid board, and spray foam.

Windows – Up to $1,500 for installation of new ENERGY STAR® triple pane, low-e, argon windows. Rebates will be based on the existing window’s size frame and panes.

Tankless Hot Water Heater – Up to $1,000 for domestic hot water upgrades to ENERGY STAR® tankless water heater. Rebates are based on tank type.

If you are interested in improving your home’s efficiency, trust a company who has been building Energuide Rated, high performance, energy efficient homes since 2008.  We at Hillson Homes can help you evaluate which improvements will provide you with the highest value and return on your investment.


Are you ready for the new Alberta Energy Code requirements for houses?

Section 9.36 was added to the Alberta Building Code 2014 and came into force on May 1, 2016.  We are currently in a transition period, but as of November 1, 2016, all changes become mandatory and all permit applications must conform to these requirements.

These changes are a good thing and are the start of a higher efficiency standard for our homes.  Hillson Homes has been constructing its homes to this standard and beyond for over eight years now, so this is nothing new for us.  These new standards can be achieved quite easily and at very little additional expense, so the real question is “why has it taken so long?”

There are a few different methods of meeting these new requirements, so it is important to be familiar with the options within the building code.

If you are thinking of building a new home, be sure to involve an experienced builder, so that these new requirements are met, or even surpassed.  Hillson’s Design-Build philosophy and process ensures this is considered, but it means getting the builder involved very early in the planning process so that the entire team is assembled and on board with the project before you get too far down the path.

Now, more than ever it is critical to have a holistic approach to home design and construction.  You can find out more about this on our web site Design-Build.

You can also see some of our high performance, energy efficient homes here.

Setting Expectations

I believe the most important thing for any business is to set expectations properly.  Since this is rarely done, simply because marketing does not work that way, it is up to us as consumers to coax this out.

It is far too common nowadays for people and businesses to promise the stars and not deliver.  Part of this is our own fault as consumers, because we want to believe we will get the stars, even if all the signs say otherwise.  Our nature is to see the best in people and believe what they are saying (I know, I know, this is debatable), but the alternative is not very appealing.   I’m not suggesting that we should assume everyone is a liar or incompetent, I am just saying that we should be critical of what is being presented and try to separate fact from emotion.  This can be difficult for many, and a little easier for others (engineers and accountants), but we can all do it with some discipline and it is necessary.   Whether it is cost, schedule, performance or any other aspect of a product or service, establishing accurate expectations is paramount.  That is, assuming nobody likes to be disappointed.

Below is a letter of reference from one of our customers speaking to this.

To Dan Hill at Hillson Homes,

I am writing this letter to say how pleased i have been with the 2 projects we have undertaken with Hillson Homes. They built our home 7 years ago and just recently built a rental garage suite for us. I would use them again without hesitation on any future projects.

I have always been impressed with their organization and honesty. Their timing has always been exactly as they say – projects are finished on time. Both projects were on budget, under budget in fact (5-10%). When getting the original quotes it is important to understand that they try and include potential expenses and contingencies (you might need to replace that water line, so let’s make sure it’s in the budget). It is unlikely, in my experience with our new builds, that unexpected expenses will arise that they did not foresee. This may result in the initial cost estimate being a little high, but it is far better to be prepared for it, and end up under budget, than forget big ticket items and come in over budget at the end. They plan their projects well, and keep a tight schedule to ensure clients are keeping up with their selections so as not to cause project delays. I am fully convinced that if 2 original cost estimates from different builders come in at very different prices, that one of them is wrong (misunderstanding of level of finishing, forgetting things, etc) and I doubt it will be Hillson’s.

The quality of workmanship is excellent. They build quality, taking pride in their work, and are not afraid to try new things. Our house was one of their early eco-builds where we all learned some new things, and this garage suite was a unique project as well. They don’t take short cuts – everything is done properly (and we are quite particular). And they are a great group of people and I trust them; I enjoy working with them and would recommend them to anyone.


Be Honest With Yourself & Do Your Homework

When considering building a new home or renovating your existing home, it is important to be honest with yourself and do your homework.

There are many builders and renovators out there, but not all are created equal.  They offer different products and services, just like any industry, and knowing what product and service you are looking for is very important.  Most of us know it is not possible to get the best quality for the lowest price, but in practice, that is what we all try to achieve, or at least most of us do.  We should not kid ourselves, this is not going to happen.  If we are looking for the best quality or the best service, that comes at a price.  The challenge is to realize that you are not going to get a premium product or service for the lowest price.  This is no different than expecting to pay the same price for a “Ford Focus” as a “BMW 5 Series”.  That is not to say that the Ford Focus is not a good product or will not fit some people’s needs, but if a consumer is looking for high performance, German engineering, they are likely going to be disappointed with the Focus.

The important thing to keep in mind here is to be honest with yourself and figure out what your real needs and wants are.  Once you have done this, find a Builder/Renovator who is going to be able to deliver on that.  Find one that offers whatever level of product and service you want, who also provides good value.  Do your homework and pick two or three to interview. Speak with their previous customers and ask them pointed questions.  Explore how those companies operate, and make sure they are going to be a good fit for you.  Most of all, make sure that what they are telling you for product vs. price is realistic and reasonable.  If they are telling you they can provide the BMW 5 Series for the Ford Focus price, there is something wrong.

See our related blog on “Setting Expectations

Residential Construction & Renovation Costs in Calgary

Calgary construction costsFor our first post, we thought we would tackle the question of residential construction & renovation costs in the Calgary area.  Go big or go home right?

After having countless conversations with potential customers regarding the cost of building a custom home or renovating in Calgary, we have decided it’s time to put something in writing to help the interested populous navigate this topic. So, what does it cost to build or renovate an infill home in the Calgary area?  I’m glad you asked.

We are aware that there are many shady and shifty sales tactics going on in the residential construction industry, both for new homes and renovations.  Because of this, it is important that the purchaser educate themselves on what to be on the lookout for.  Of course prices fluctuate over time and are dependent on current market conditions, but the basics of what needs to be considered really doesn’t change.

We find it easiest to look at any project as two, intertwined parts.  One of those parts being the general budget and the other being the construction budget.  The entire project cost is of course an amalgamation of these two parts.  To better quantify costs, let us break down these two pieces of the pie.

General Budget

  • Architectural / Design Fees (project dependent)
  • Design Consultants (surveyors, geotechnical consultants, engineers, energy consultants) $2k-$10
  • Permitting (all regulatory and approval fees for the project, including Development permits, Building Permits etc.) $2k-$7k
  • Utilities (services such as water, sewer, gas, electric, wells, septic etc. are often required by the municipality, especially for infill homes and are at the cost of the customer) $20k-$30k
  • Site Preparation (remediation, demolition, clearing etc.) $10k-$30k
  • Hardscaping (drainage, grading, retaining, fencing etc.) site dependent
  • Landscaping (loam, sod, plantings) site dependent
  • Interior Decorating (window coverings, furniture, artwork etc.)

Construction Budget

  • Construction Costs (all parts and labour required to construct the home – excavation, foundation/ flatwork, framing, roof, flashing & gutters, windows, doors & skylights, siding & exterior trim, decks, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, insulation, drywall, millwork, paint, tile,
    cabinets & closets & counters, flooring, bath hardware, mirrors, fireplace, handrails, decorative metal, appliances, specialty items like elevators, lifts etc.)
  • General Conditions (site security & fencing, portable toilet, temporary utilities and heat, rentals, waste removal & recycling, specialty items & tools, final clean, miscellaneous)
  • Special Conditions (site access, severe grades, slope stability, unusual soil conditions etc.)
  • Builder`s Management Fee (15-25% of project – project dependent)
  • Taxes

Total Project Budget (Typical)

Several factors influence the overall project cost, including site conditions (building costs for infills are different than those in new developments), finish level and customer expectations.  The numbers used assume a typical or median approach to a project.

Whole home renovation (down to the studs): $200/sqft ± $50/sqft

New construction $250/sqft ± $50/sqft

Integrating sustainability, high performance or energy efficiencies into a project don’t necessarily need to add to the cost.  Some of these items are simply a different or better way of doing those things which are already done.  For this reason the numbers presented here already include many high performance and energy efficient features.  What would you do with that extra $250 per month you save on your energy bills?

While the current market conditions in Alberta are having an effect on construction prices, it is not as great as one might think.  A strengthening US construction market is actually causing a rise in material costs which are already becoming more expensive thanks to a weakening Canadian dollar.  The cost of living hasn’t lessened in Calgary, so our labour costs remain virtually unchanged.  The silver lining in the market conditions is that subcontractors and suppliers are more responsive because they are less busy, and they are trimming the fat to keep prices down in an effort to stay busy.

This information is intended as a benchmark or starting point.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss things further, don’t hesitate to give us a call or post here.

Have a look at our Website to get a better idea of the product and process we are describing in this blog.