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Freedom House

Innovation in renovation using cutting-edge design and techniques highlighting function, beauty and efficiency

Kawartha Lakes, Ontario

The Freedom House Project was a synthesis of the principles of SED: invention, creation and growth.

After years of experimenting with construction and design methods on his own projects, SED founder Jason Nelson enrolled in the Sustainable Building Design and Construction Program at Sir Sandford Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario. As soon as he had completed the program, he decided to put his experience and education into practice

The challenge was to find a home in need of renovation. Merging the methods and materials learned in the program and his years of experience designing and building his own projects he would restore the property and transform it into a comfortable and energy efficient home.

In a manner of speaking, the Freedom House property found him. While driving outside Buckhorn one stormy day, the clouds suddenly parted and the sun illuminated a derelict structure that just happened to be for sale. Although the scope of the project was significantly broader than he had anticipated, he purchased the property and began demolition.


Innovation in renovation was the core goal of this project, taking an existing abandoned structure and using cutting-edge design and techniques to create something that was beautiful, functional and efficient.

To minimise environmental impact and add value to the community, the majority of products and services were sourced locally, being mindful of keeping costs to a minimum. SED began the overwhelming job of re-imagining the property – from ramshackle cabin, to a beautiful and functional family home. Each step was carefully thought out to balance the environmental, social, and economic impacts.


The goal of the Freedom House Project was to showcase how an abandoned property and house could be revitalised instead of demolished using existing elements as much as possible without sacrificing the quality of the final product.

The property had been neglected for years. The structure was crumbling and had to be stripped back to the frame,tThe lot had no services. Power lines had to be run to the house and the existing well needed repairs. The property ultimately required nearly 30 truck loads (500 cubic yards) of clay fill to bring it up to grade.

Materials and Finishes

Tin roofing: long-lasting, energy efficient and more environmentally responsible than petroleum based asphalt

Rough cut pine lap siding*: Durable, weather and rot resistant the siding was sourced from a small, family owned mill.

Lifetime wood treatment: Siding was finished using a non-toxic treatment. Naturally occurring ingredients in the formula, handed down through three generations of Scandinavian woodcrafters, essentially petrifies the surface of the wood creating a physical barrier. Though it contains no colourants, its action does cause the wood to develop different shades over time. This treatment on the rough cut siding allowed for the home to blend organically into the surrounding forest.

Tongue and groove cedar for soffit and fascia and cedar band board*: Naturally insect and rot resistant, low maintenance, resistant to temperature and weather conditions, doesn’t need to be stained and develops a natural patina over time, does not warp.

Spalted maple countertops*: Spalted maple is a natural work of art that results from fungus invading the wood creating a veining pattern. Although highly prized by woodworkers, designers and architects, spalting is technically a form of decay. This diminishes the wood's structural integrity, and therefore cannot be used for building structurally. Finished without chemicals, only natural oils are used.

Upcycled cabinets: The kitchen cabinets were upcycled from a local renovation project. They were restored and customised to fit the new space.

Custom finish pine flooring*: finished with a low VOC, water-based clear coat.

Paint: Low VOC water based acrylic paint throughout

Natural and high end finishes were used throughout

*indicates the material was locally sourced

Technical specifications

Mechanical & Plumbing: All new high efficiency systems were installed

Waste Management: Saved the foundation, exterior framing, roof of house. Interior walls were disassembled and all usable lumber was saved for the rebuild. Demo waste was taken to a sorting facility where metals and organics were separated.

Insulation: Foamsulate Eco spray rigid polyurethane foam contains soya, corn, sugar and castor based polyols as well as recycled pre and post consumer products.

Foamsulate also doubles as a vapour barrier, saving on costs and unnecessary materials

Two layers of silver board on the outside of the sheathing to eliminate all thermal bridging. Total wall R-value = R30

Lighting: LED lighting throughout home

Ceiling insulation: R60 cellulose insulation lowers carbon emissions by recycling the waste paper it’s derived from. Windows and Doors: All new double pane low E windows and doors


In under 9 months, the SED team had taken what most would have considered a tear-down to an efficient, comfortable and beautiful home. And as they had hoped, shortly after completion a couple bought the home as a place to start their family.

Industry Partners
Thank you to the team: Megan Taylor, Lindey Touzel, Zack Heurkens. Brandon Schaefer, Jon Moroz, Adam Layh

Water where you need it

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