Skyrocketing fuel costs and the growing impacts of climate change are leading more Canadians than ever to take a second look at everything from the cars we drive to the homes we live in. Three Quebec builders are doing their part by designing houses that are healthy, energy-efficient and affordable - projects that won a nationwide
sustainable-home competition held by Canada Mortgage and Housing Competition (CMHC).
EcoCité-Sodereo, Aloutte Homes, and Team Montéal Zero are three of only 12 winning teams from across Canada that won the Equilibrium housing initiative competition launched by CMHC last spring. 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.
The "Abondance Montréal home," by EcoCité-Sodero will be built in Verdun, Québec. The project will see a triplex designed to, among other things, draw energy from several sources including a GeoExchange heat pump system, photovoltaic panels, and solar thermal vacuum tubes. The triplex will boast a total of 84 solar panels and features toilets that run on captured rainwater. The suites have been designed to maximize solar penetration - for example, the refrigerator is located in a spot where it does not cast a shadow on the kitchen counter.
The Alouette Homes project will be built in Eastman, Québec. Its design couples readily-available renewable energy technologies with energy-efficient construction techniques. The house will use factory pre-engineered modular sections to reduce environmental impact at the 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 be provided by a combination of innovative strategies. The rural setting means all the home's water systems are completely self-contained.
"EQuilibrium #1," by Team Montréal Zero is a single-family, detached house to be located in Hudson, Québec. The proposed house will have a very air-tight 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.
A selection committee of independent housing experts chose the 12 winning teams from a pool of 72 applicants. The winners each receive $50,000 from CMHC to help defray the cost of building the demonstration homes, which will be open to the public by 2008. CMHC is also providing technical and promotional support.
"Almost half of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada come from the operation of buildings, so it stands to reason that if we deal efficiently with today's built-environment, it will have a positive impact on our future," said Vivian Manasc, President of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada. "EQuilibrium is a promising example of how government and industry can work to support a healthier and more sustainable future for all Canadians."
Once they are complete, the demonstration homes will offer the opportunity to measure the performance of EQuilibrium housing under real-world conditions on a national scale. They will also help spearhead the spread of healthy, sustainable and energy-efficient housing across Canada.
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.