Residential architects tackle Net Zero challenge

Photo credit: Paul Dowsett, Sustainable | Architecture for a Healthy Planet

A group of architects is tackling the Net Zero challenge, with a shared goal in mind: to help homeowners in achieving Net Zero status.

Carolyn Moss and Paul Dowsett are the co-founders of the volunteer-based Net Zero Architects Network, a group of specialized architects focusing on retrofitting single-family homes. Currently spanning two provinces with national expansion plans, the network includes 22 firms, and convenes monthly to collaborate, share insights, and build connections.

Though transforming homes to Net Zero stands as the most impactful personal contribution against climate change, homeowners remain largely unaware of their residences’ climate impact or Net-Zero requisites. The federal government targets Net Zero for all Canadian buildings by 2050 (2040 in Toronto). This necessitates retrofitting over 10 million single-family homes in Canada within the next 27 years, averaging more than 1,000 homes per day until 2050.

Photo credit: Paul Dowsett, Sustainable | Architecture for a Healthy Planet

During the summer of 2021, MOSS SUND architects, a Toronto-based firm specializing in low impact design, organized an information session concerning the City of Toronto’s Net Zero strategy, with a specific focus on existing homes. However, the only participant in this session was Dowsett from Sustainable | Architecture for a Healthy Planet. The resulting discussion revolved around the industry’s current status and the notable absence of architects from the discourse on home retrofitting. This interaction sparked a concept: to gather a consortium of peers, each with expertise in high-performance residential design, to actively engage in this conversation.

Since architects hold a unique position to significantly influence the transition to net zero, educating contractors and homeowners alike, more architects are being encouraged to join the group in order to spread awareness.

In addition to leading MOSS SUND Architects, Carolyn Moss is the co-founder of Homes to Zero, a female-led organization offering an innovative, simplified 5-step approach: Score, Assess, Plan, Implement, and Monitor. Guiding homeowners from their current state to a comfortable, resilient Net Zero home, Homes to Zero employs AI-driven standardization to streamline, automate, and scale retrofit planning and execution. The company’s overarching aim is to make the journey to Net Zero uncomplicated and feasible for all homeowner types.

Photo credit: Paul Dowsett, Sustainable | Architecture for a Healthy Planet

Dowsett is the principal and founder of residential firm Sustainable, and co-established the volunteer-driven Pocket Change Project in an eastern Toronto neighborhood. He supports the group’s neighbours collectively as they work towards reducing carbon footprints. The group actively facilitates home retrofits through regular public events, with (to date) 25 homes at various retrofit stages. Among these, 10 feature completed heat pump installations, including 2 hydronic systems, and 4 homes are now gas-independent with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The project offers a retrofit

guide and community-driven assistance for homeowners navigating approvals and renovations. Presently, the group has established a citywide Toronto Home Retrofits coordination service as a non-profit entity, offering support to Toronto’s community groups in greening their homes. Scaling up from a proven model, this program partners with community groups to provide crucial home retrofit coordination assistance, significantly expediting home retrofits citywide.

The Net Zero Architects Network has an overall vision to evolve into a nationwide collaborative group, dedicated to devising methods for widespread implementation of substantial emission cuts in our current housing inventory.

Through the creation and dissemination of optimal solutions, the group aims to aid fellow architects, designers, contractors, and ultimately building owners in comprehending the actionable steps they can take to significantly curtail their structures’ environmental footprint.

For more information on joining the Net Zero Architects Network, e-mail or