Winners of EQuilibrium competition to develop energy-efficient homes announced

Twelve Canadian homebuilder teams have been selected as winners of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) EQuilibrium sustainable housing competition. The goal of CMHC’s EQuilibrium initiative is to demonstrate a new approach to housing in Canada. It will support the building of sustainable, healthy houses that are also affordable and energy- and resource-efficient. EQuilibrium housing is designed to lower homeowners’ energy bills by reducing energy consumption and delivering electricity back to the grid. The homes will also promote water conservation, healthy indoor environments, durability, and reduced pollutant emissions.

Each winning team will receive $50,000 from CMHC to offset eligible costs, including those relating to documenting the projects, performance testing, and demonstrating the homes publicly. In addition, CMHC will work with the winning teams to provide technical and promotional support, and will monitor and report on the performance of the houses.

The winning projects were chosen by independent housing experts from a total of 72 homebuilder teams that submitted applications in July 2006 through a two-stage competitive process.

The demonstration homes will be open to Canadians to view by 2008, after which CMHC will explore opportunities to advance EQuilibrium housing principles more broadly across the housing industry.

As architect of the EQuilibrium initiative, CMHC worked in close consultation with federal, provincial and municipal levels of government, industry stakeholders, as well as utilities. EQuilibrium brings together the principles of occupant health and comfort, energy efficiency, renewable energy production, resource and water conservation, and reduced environmental impact. CMHC’s new EQuilibrium brand replaces the previous working name for this initiative, Net Zero Energy Healthy Housing. The name EQuilibrium was chosen to reflect the goal of balancing our housing needs with those of the environment.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has been Canada’s national housing agency for more than 60 years. CMHC is committed to helping Canadians access a wide choice of quality, affordable homes, while making vibrant, healthy communities and cities a reality across the country.

The 12 teams are as follows:

EcoCit-Sodero — Verdun, Quebec
The “Abondance Montral” will be built in Verdun, Quebec. The project is a triplex using a design that, among other things, will draw energy from several sources including a GeoExchange heat pump system, photovoltaic panels, and solar thermal vacuum tubes. It features toilets that run on captured rainwater. The triplex will boast a total of 84 solar panels. The suites have been designed in great detail to maximize solar penetration for example, the refrigerator is located in a spot where it does not cast a shadow on the kitchen counter.

Alouette Homes — Eastman, Quebec
The Alouette Homes EQuilibrium Initiative home will be built in Eastman, Quebec. Its design couples readily available renewable energy technologies with energy-efficient construction techniques. The design focuses on using factory pre-engineered modular sections to reduce environmental impact at a rural building site. The home will be connected to the electrical grid using a net-metering system, allowing the eventual owner to “sell” excess electricity generated by the home’s photovoltaic system to the grid. Space heating will provided by a combination of innovative strategies. The rural setting means all the home’s water systems are completely self-contained.

Team Montral Zero — Hudson, Quebec
“EQuilibrium #1” is a single-family detached house to be located in Hudson, Quebec. The proposed house will have a very airtight and well-insulated building envelope. It will rely heavily on passive heating and cooling techniques to achieve its EQuilibrium target. In order to ensure air quality, careful consideration will be given to design and construction techniques that protect and enhance the indoor environment. A large portion of the site will remain undisturbed and act as a natural wildlife habitat.

Sustainable Urbanism Initiative — Toronto, Ontario
This proposal entitled “Davenport Net Zero Energy Townhouses” is comprised of three townhouses located in Toronto’s downtown Annex area. The townhouses will incorporate energy-efficient features such as spectrally selective window glazing. They will also showcase ground source heat pumps powered by electricity generated through photovoltaic cells covering the roof of each unit. The fact that the townhouses will be located in a part of town well-served by transit highlights two sustainable urban design imperatives reducing dependence on the automobile, and efficient use of existing infrastructure.

Minto — Ottawa, Ontario
The “Minto Manotick House” will be located in the south end of Ottawa. One of the most important features of the house is the high level of insulation in the building envelope including double-wall construction with strategically located triple-pane windows. The design incorporates several innovations, one of which is an “all-off” switch it not only turns off all lights, but all computers, cable boxes, amplifiers, etc. When the homeowners leave their home, they can be confident that a minimal amount of energy is being used.

Now House(TM) — Toronto, Ontario
Now House(TM) will take an existing post-World War II house in Toronto and retrofit it to meet EQuilibrium’s goals. Insulation upgrades, new windows, Energy Star appliances, wastewater heat recovery, and solar panels are some of the ways the house’s energy usage footprint and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced. The larger goal of this plan is to demonstrate how homeowners and their local contractors can improve energy efficiency of older housing with afew simple but innovative modifications.

Avalon Master Builder — Red Deer, Alberta
“Discovery III” is the name of Avalon Master Builder’s Equilibrium submission. This grid-tied solar home, to be built in Red Deer, Alberta, will produce as much energy as it uses annually. It will also feature a grey-water recycling system to reduce the home’s reliance on the municipal water system. To boost the home’s overall resource efficiency, its innovative wall and window systems will reduce space-heating requirements. The home will also use solar systems to preheat air and water. The design builds on Avalon’s ongoing work to deliver resource-efficient homes to customers.

Canadian Housing Energy Sustainable Solutions (CHESS) — Red Deer, Alberta
CHESS’ “EQuilibrium Concept Home” is customized for Central Alberta’s climate specifically, that of Red Deer, Alberta. It pays close attention to the issue of resource efficiency. Not only will 65 percent of the construction waste generated by the home be recycled, but many of the materials used to build it can be reused when the home is eventually demolished. The home is also intended to evolve with the owner’s needs. For example, an optional second floor can be developed to accommodate a growing family. Later in life, the main floor can easily be adapted to be barrier-free.

Echo-Logic Land Corporation — Calgary, Alberta
Echo-Logic describes its “Echo Haven” project as “the next step” in the demonstration of energy-efficient, healthy, low-impact housing on a community scale. The project covers the construction of 25 community homes in Calgary with other features such as a greenhouse and a community building with guest accommodation and work-at-home office. The design of the homes will demonstrate healthy and durable materials, rainwater harvesting, composting or low-flush toilets and site-sensitive orientation to maximize both solar exposure and integration with surrounding nature.

Habitat Studio & Workshop Ltd. — Edmonton, Alberta
The goal of Habitat’s “Riverdale” project is to prove that it
is possible to build houses that foster a high quality of life while also reducing greenhouse gas production and environmental impact. “Riverdale” involves the construction of an EQuilibrium-compliant energy duplex, which will produce as much energy as it consumes through a combination of use of rigorous energy conservation, energy efficiency measures and the use of renewable energy sources. The materials used to build the home will include regionally-produced lumber and recycled newspaper. “Riverdale” will be located in downtown Edmonton.

Nexus Solar Corporation — North Battleford, Saskatchewan
The Nexus Solar and Battlefords Tribal Council project “YIPI!” will be located in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. (YIPI! stands for Yellowhead Innovation Park Inc.) The project will take advantage of Saskatchewan’s sunny climate for solar power. Its healthy features include the use of low-toxicity construction materials. Nexus has also incorporated innovative refrigeration and clothes-drying technologies into the YIPI! Project, as well as factory-built construction that will ensure consistently high quality, affordability, and easy online ordering. To help increase consumer awareness of Equilibrium design objectives, Nexus will locate the project next to a major highway.

Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation — Winnipeg, Manitoba
The Corporation’s “Urban Ecology” design will build a semi-detached, environmentally friendly development in an inner-city Winnipeg neighbourhood. The two units in the development will be fully adapted to Winnipeg’s climate. This will require, for example, the units to have a combination of flat and pitched roofs so the photovoltaic system powering them can be snow-free in winter. The team is confident that high-efficiency appliances, low-flow fixtures and sustainable building materials present in the design make “Urban Ecology” an attractive and successful EQuilibrium demonstration project.