February 26, 2007

EQuilibrium winners to build prototype homes as blueprint for sustainable housing

Twelve Canadian homebuilder teams have been named winners of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) EQuilibrium sustainable housing competition. The winning projects were chosen by independent housing experts from 72 submissions received in July 2006 through a two-stage competitive process.

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. CMHC will also work with the winning teams to provide technical and promotional support.

The performance of the demonstration homes, which will be open for public viewing by 2008, will be monitored, with the results reported by CMHC. After 2008, CMHC will explore opportunities to advance EQuilibrium housing principles more broadly across the housing industry.

"These houses are designed to produce as much energy as they consume on an annual basis. They will be a blueprint for the next generation of housing in Canada," said Monte Solberg, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, and Minister responsible for CMHC.

The purpose of the EQuilibrium initiative--previously known as Net Zero Energy Healthy Housing--is to demonstrate a new, sustainable approach to housing in Canada. It will support the construction of healthy houses that are both affordable and energy- and resource-efficient, bringing together the principles of occupant health and comfort, energy efficiency, renewable energy production, resource and water conservation, and reduced environmental impact.

Of the dozen selected projects, three will be built in Quebec, another three in Ontario and four in Alberta.

Four of the 12 winning housing designs come from Alberta--more than from any other province. The "Riverdale" project by Edmonton's Habitat Studio & Workshop, will be built in downtown Edmonton. It will produce as much energy as it consumes through a combination of 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.

In Calgary, Echo-Logic Land Corporation's "Echo Haven" project will consist of 25 community houses, together with other amenities such as a greenhouse and work-at-home office. The houses' design features will include use of healthy and durable materials, rainwater harvesting, composting or low-flush toilets, and site-sensitive orientation to maximize solar exposure and integration with the surrounding landscape.

The two other Alberta projects will be built in Red Deer. The "EQuilibrium Concept Home" to be built by Canadian Housing Energy sustainable solutions (CHESS) will be specifically customized to suit Red Deer's climate, its design focusing on resource efficiency. Not only will 65% of the construction waste produced during its building be recycled, many of the building materials will be able to be recycled when the house is eventually demolished.

Avalon Master Builder's "Discovery III" will be a grid-tied solar home, with other design features to include a grey water recycling system and advanced wall and window systems to reduce space heating requirements.

The winning Quebec teams are EcoCité-Sodereo, Alouette Homes and Team Montréal Zero. EcoCité-Sodero's "Abondance Montréal" home will be built in Verdun, Quebec. The triplex will be designed to draw energy from several sources including a geoexchange heat pump system, photovoltaic solar panels (84 in all) and solar thermal vacuum tubes. Among its design features will be toilets that run on captured rainwater.

The Alouette Homes project, to be built in the rural community of Eastman, Quebec, will combine readily available renewable energy technologies with energy-efficient construction techniques. For example, the house will use factory pre-engineered modular sections to reduce environmental impact at the rural building site. All of the home's water systems will be completely self-contained, and the house will be connected to the electrical grid using a net-metering system. This will allow the eventual owner to "sell" excess electricity generated by the home's photovoltaic system to the grid.

"EQuilibrium #1," by Team Montréal Zero is a single-family, detached house to be built in Hudson, Quebec. Its design features a very airtight and well-insulated building envelope, combined with passive heating and cooling and a range of other techniques to protect and enhance the indoor environment. A large portion of the property will remain undisturbed, serving as a natural wildlife habitat.

In Ontario, the "Now House," will retrofit an existing post-World War II house in Toronto to meet EQuilibrium's energy efficiency and resource efficiency goals. Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced through measures such as insulation upgrades, new windows, Energy Star appliances, wastewater heat recovery and solar panels. The larger aim of this project is to show how simple, yet innovative modifications can improve the energy efficiency of older housing.

Also in Toronto, Ampas Architect's "Sustainable Urbanism Initiative" will involve construction of three energy-efficient townhouses in a section of downtown Toronto well served by public transit. The project location will fulfill two sustainable urban design imperatives: reduced dependence on the automobile and efficient use of existing infrastructure.

The third Ontario project will be built in the south end of Ottawa. The "Minto Manotick House" will feature a high level of insulation in the building envelope, plus a "all-off" switch that will turn off all computers, cable boxes, amplifiers, etc as well as lights when the homeowners leave, ensuring minimal energy use when no one is home.

The two other winners include Nexus Solar Corporation, which will construct its Yellowhead Innovation Park Inc (YIPI) project in North Battleford, Saskatchewan in partnership with the Battlefords Tribal Council; and Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation's "Urban Ecology" project, a semi-detached, environmentally friendly development to be built in a inner-city Winnipeg neighbourhood.

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