The EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative

EQuilibrium™ is a national sustainable housing demonstration initiative, led by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), that brings the private and public sectors together to develop homes, and eventually communities that are a model for sustainable living. EQuilibrium™ homes are designed to address occupant health and comfort, energy efficiency and renewable energy production, resource conservation, reduced environmental impact and affordability.

The EQuilibrium™ Initiative

CMHC's EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative offers builders and developers across the country a powerful new approach to establish a reputation for building healthy and sustainable, quality homes that will meet the needs of Canadians now and well into the future.

To pursue this goal, CMHC invited Canada's builders and developers in May 2006 to submit their ideas for EQuilibrium™ demonstration homes.

Seventy-two builder- and developer-led teams submitted expressions of interest. An evaluation committee of independent housing experts then chose 20 of the applicants to undertake an integrated design process and prepare and submit detailed proposals. These applicants received $10,000 to support this work.

On January 12, 2007, 18 teams submitted their final proposals, which were evaluated and ranked by a second independent committee. On February 13th, 2007 the Honourable Monte Solberg, Minister responsible for CMHC, announced the 12 teams chosen to build and demonstrate their EQuilibrium™ projects.

A second call for proposals in 2008 resulted in three additional projects, two in British Columbia and one Atlantic Canada.

The winners each receive $60,000 from CMHC to help defray costs relating to the design and documentation their projects, carrying out quality assurance and commissioning and demonstrating the homes to the general public. CMHC is also providing technical, marketing and promotional support to the winning teams and is supporting a long-term performance monitoring and reporting program for all the projects constructed.

Once the demonstration homes are complete, they will be open for public and professional tours for a minimum time period of six months. This demonstration period is a critical component that can help facilitate the necessary change to more sustainable housing and lifestyle habits. During the demonstration phase, consumers will learn first-hand about available sustainable housing choices. At the same time, the demonstration homes will encourage industry professionals to continue to develop their knowledge base and capacity to deliver better environmental products and services to their clients.

Performance Monitoring

After the demonstration period, the EQuilibrium™ homes will be sold and a performance monitoring period will commence, for a minimum time period of one year.

Monitoring provided by CMHC is designed to be relatively simple: the goal is to know whether the project meets its net zero energy consumption target during the first year that the home is occupied, and whether it satisfies the other EQuilibrium™/Healthy Housing™ criteria. Energy inputs from the photovoltaic system and solar water heating will be measured. CMHC will use a utility meter to measure house electrical usage. A one-time survey of all occupant appliances will quantify their potential energy usage. Any combustible fuel use will be recorded to calculate energy usage. For natural gas, utility meters will be used. Water meters will measure household hot and cold water consumption.

To assess indoor air quality conditions, each project will be monitored to measure CO2, temperature, and relative humidity. Spot readings will also be taken during site visits over the course of the first year. During the first winter that the home is occupied, a two–week tracer gas air change test will be conducted to characterize air change rates.

Supporters

While being led by CMHC, the EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative is supported by developers, homebuilders, utility companies, manufacturers, architects, engineers, academics, integrated design experts and researchers. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has applied its expertise in the development of energy-related technical guidelines, and supplied funding for additional monitoring and testing. Environment Canada (EC) and Industry Canada (IC) have also provided input. The Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA), the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA), and the Net-Zero Energy Homes Coalition (NZEH) have also been strong supporters of the initiative.

These stakeholders are working together to create a whole new model for healthy housing, sustainable communities — and a cleaner, brighter energy future for all Canadians.

The Goals of the EQuilibrium™ Initiative

The goals of the EQuilibrium™ housing initiative are to:

  1. Develop a clear vision and approach to develop and promote low-environmental impact healthy housing across Canada.
  2. Build the capacity of Canada's home builders, developers, architects and engineers to design and build EQuilibrium™ homes and communities across the country;
  3. Educate consumers on the benefits of owning an EQuilibrium™ home and achieve market acceptance of EQuilibrium™ houses and sustainable communities; and
  4. Enhance Canada's domestic and international leadership and business opportunities in sustainable housing design, construction services and technologies.

The vision for the EQuilibrium™ housing initiative is that of an active partnership between all levels of government and industry to ultimately achieve zero environmental impact homes.

Through the EQuilibrium initiative, CMHC and its supporters will play a key role in informing Canadian home buyers of the immediate and long-term value, benefits and savings associated with owning an EQuilibrium™ home. CMHC will also seek opportunities to engage the home building industry to help develop their capacity to design and build sustainable housing to broaden the EQuilibrium initiative beyond the initial demonstration homes.

The EQuilibrium™ housing initiative represents a significant step forward in reducing the energy intensity of Canada's housing sector, supporting our growing need for renewable energy solutions and helping Canada maintain a clean and healthy environment.

With the support of industry and government, EQuilibrium™ will help ensure the future success of Canada's housing industry both at home and in increasingly competitive markets around the world. It will also help to ensure that Canadians have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and healthy, vital and sustainable communities to live in for generations to come.

What is EQuilibrium™ Housing?

EQuilibrium™ housing integrates a wide range of technologies, strategies, products and techniques to reduce a home's environmental impact to a minimum. EQuilibrium™ housing features on-site renewable energy systems to provide clean energy to help reduce annual consumption and costs. Photovoltaic panels on the house generate electricity. Other renewable energy systems, such as solar hot water and geothermal energy systems, can also be used to produce reliable, low-cost, environmentally friendly energy.

The result is a highly energy-efficient grid connected home with low environmental impact that aims to produce as much energy each year as it consumes in the form of heat, light and power.

While the idea is relatively new, the ideas behind EQuilibrium™ are based on many years of research and practice, and much of the technologies involved have already been proven both in Canada and around the world. The difference is that EQuilibrium™ is a unique Canadian sustainable housing demonstration initiative that combines and integrates these design and building practices into an integrated “whole house” solution that meet the needs of both occupants and builders alike within the challenges of the Canadian climate.

The Benefits of an EQuilibrium™ House to the Housing Industry

In the beginning, EQuilibrium™ housing is expected to represent a value-added niche market. But as consumer needs and values change, it is expected to emerge as a leading initiative for planning and building Canadian homes and communities.

The demonstration homes will offer a chance to measure the performance of EQuilibrium™ housing under real-world conditions. Current market research shows that Canadian home buyers are already interested in purchasing housing that is energy-efficient and healthy. The demonstration homes will provide direct market experience of the advantages and benefits of owning an EQuilibrium™ home, and will help build the case that the benefits and long-term cost savings of owning such a home will offset the higher initial investment.

The Benefits of an EQuilibrium™ House to Consumers

An EQuilibrium™ home is designed to be healthier, more comfortable and more efficient than traditional housing.

EQuilibrium™ housing is designed to offer a wide range of positive benefits and advantages, including:

  • Low monthly utility bills — save money on energy costs all year round and protect your family from future energy price increases.
  • Healthier, more comfortable living space — enjoy better indoor air quality, stable temperatures, more natural light and healthier building materials in your home.
  • A greener choice for the environment — lower your family’s greenhouse gas emissions, conserve resources, reduce pollution and minimize your household’s ecological footprint.
  • A better future – help make sure that future generations of Canadians have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and a safe, healthy world to live in.

The Features of an EQuilibrium™ House

EQuilibrium™ homes are flexible in design and style. While there is no one fixed model, EQuilibrium™ housing generally includes such features as:

  • A climate-specific solar design tailored to take advantage of the local climate and natural environment.
  • Natural daylighting to provide more pleasing illumination at a fraction of the cost of electric lights.
  • Energy- and resource-efficient construction methods, materials, appliances and lighting.
  • Integrated renewable energy systems, such as solar electricity and thermal heat, ground-source heating and passive solar heating and cooling.
  • Grid interconnection to allow the home to deliver excess electricity back to the grid and to draw energy from the grid, as needed.

It is not just individual homeowners that reap benefits from EQuilibrium™ homes. EQuilibrium™ communities will one day conserve water, land and habitat, reduce infrastructure requirements and costs, and protect existing local ecosystems. Sustainable planning reduces costs, protects the environment and creates healthy, vibrant and liveable communities.

Discover the innovative features that make the EQuilibrium™ home a healthy and environmentally-friendly place to live.

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