CMHC EQuilibrium™ Housing Forum 2012 (Vancouver, B.C)

October 23-24, 2012 — True Stories: Sustainability in Action


The CMHC EQuilibrium™ Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative brought world-class sustainable housing examples home to Canadians. With 11 EQuilibrium™ Housing projects constructed across Canada, including two in BC, now is the time to learn all about these near/net-zero energy, low environmental impact homes!

“True Stories: Sustainability in Action” was held October 23 – 24, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia. This national sustainable housing Forum provided in-depth information, analysis and discussion on some of the most sustainable houses ever designed and built in Canada, focusing on sharing lessons learned from five EQuilibrium™ Housing projects: Harmony House, in Burnaby, BC by Habitat Design + Consulting Ltd. and Insightful Healthy Homes Inc.; The Green Dream Home, in Kamloops, BC, by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Central Interior (CHBA CI) and Thompson Rivers University (TRU); the EchoHaven project in Calgary, AB by the Echo-Logic Land Corporation and Bow Crow Design / Sunergy Systems Ltd.; and the Urban Ecology project in Winnipeg, MB by the Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation (WHRC). In addition, the Now House EQuilibrium™ Housing retrofit project in Toronto by The Now House Project Inc. was presented in a free public lecture event.

Forum attendees learned true stories directly from the builder teams about the challenges they faced and opportunities they realized in designing and delivering their projects. The Forum program structure reflected the integrated design process approach that all teams used to develop their projects. Participants were able to learn from the experience of the EQuilibrium™ Housing Teams, discover what can be done right now to design and build more sustainable housing and how to capitalize on this business opportunity.

Plus, attendees participated in a guided tour of the Harmony House EQuilibrium™ project with the builder team and homeowners!

Topics included:

  • How did they create a near/net-zero energy sustainable home?
  • What challenges did they face? What opportunities did they discover?
  • What are the benefits for the builder and what is the added value to the consumer?
  • How much did it cost, what did they learn, and what will they do next time?
  • What are the visitors and homeowners saying?

Unique Market Focus to Sustainable Housing

What made this Forum unique was the market focus and real-world experience provided by the EQuilibrium™ Housing builders. The Teams followed an integrated design process and house-as-a-system approach to integrate passive solar design with ultra energy efficient building construction and appliances, Healthy Housing™ features, and commercially available on-site renewable energy systems. Overall this approach is designed to produce nearly as much energy as a home uses on an annual basis. The result is homes that address issues of occupant health and comfort, energy efficiency, resource conservation, environmental impact, and affordability, while achieving significantly reduced energy consumption, reduced green house gas (GHG) emissions, and low environmental impacts to water, land and air. 

Who Attended

The EQuilibrium™ Housing Forum is an essential learning opportunity for housing professionals looking to establish themselves on the leading edge of “green” housing in response to increasing consumer demand for healthy and more environmentally friendly homes.  

Attendees included:

  • builders  and developers;
  • architects, engineers, technologists, designers, planners and interior designers;
  • renewable energy specialists;
  • energy modeling and integrated design process specialists;
  • utility managers, regulators and manufacturers working on environmental housing products and processes (e.g. grid interconnect);
  • realtors and housing financiers; and
  • Government, inspectors, trades training organizations, researchers and students.

Here is what attendees to previous EQuilibrium™ Housing Forums have said:

..., the CMHC research conference … was one of the better conferences I have attended. The speakers concisely explained what they had done and why, what worked and what didn't work, and how they will/ or are doing things differently as a result — very impressive.

I really liked the Forum because I learned a great deal, since it was very concrete (not too technical), and the lessons drawn by each of the participants were very enriching.

I really enjoyed the Forum. I especially appreciated that the information was not just for the initiated.

Very interesting and informative. Good prospective avenues, passionate speakers.

Very well done — real world experience is super!  It was very good to have project managers sharing their experience in building the homes.

Good information; came together well; panels are very effective format to share experiences and address questions and challenges. I found the sessions very enlightening and informative. 

I witnessed a lot of people getting some very inspiring, useful and timely information. It has really confirmed for me that the EQuilibrium Initiative has had a steady and growing influence on the housing industry, the real estate community as well as the solar industry… The things we are learning from these houses will benefit homeowners, builders and developers for years.

Projects Featured at the 2012 EQuilibrium™ Housing Forum

Harmony House

The Harmony House EQuilibrium™ project is a new, two storey, 438 m2 (4,714 sq. ft.) home with a basement which includes a self-contained secondary suite, and an attached garage. Located in an established community in Burnaby, British Columbia, Harmony House has a flexible design that enables three complementary functions — providing two housing units (a first and second floor unit and the basement suite) and ensuring the capability for an in-home office. Key features of the project include: a highly insulated, airtight building envelope featuring vacuum insulated panels and triple glazed windows (predicted to reduce space heating requirements by 80%); passive solar heating, solar domestic hot water system and grid-connected photovoltaic panels; high-efficiency air source heat pumps; and a wind tower.  

For more information on the Harmony House EQuilibrium™ Housing project, see the detailed Project Profile.

The Harmony House Team

The Harmony House team was led by the design firm Habitat Design + Consulting Ltd. (HDC), and the builder, Insightful Healthy Homes Inc.  Habitat Design + Consulting Ltd. is an experienced building design consultancy which specializes in environmental sustainability. The firm offers a wide range of services including building and community design, project consulting, industry training and publication development. These services have been provided to the private and public sectors in Canada, the US, and overseas, such as in Japan. Insightful Healthy Homes Inc., founded in 2004, specializes in building healthy, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly homes. The company is involved in the research and development of advanced technologies which are incorporated into its buildings and also provides energy efficiency and indoor air quality consulting services in Canada and China.

The Green Dream Home

The Green Dream Home is a new, two storey detached home with a finished walk-out basement level. Located in Kamloops, British Columbia, this YMCA/YWCA Dream Home Lottery prize is a 300.7 m2 (3,237 sq. ft.) house with an attached garage on a residential lot in the Sun Rivers development. Key features include: passive solar heating; grid-tied photovoltaic panels; solar hot water heating; a ground source heat pump; dual water supply system (potable and irrigation water); and, drought resistant landscaping with native and edible plants.

For more information on the Green Dream HomeEQuilibrium™ Housing project, see the detailed Project Profile.

The Green Dream Home Team

The builder team is a consortium of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Central Interior (CHBA CI) and Thompson Rivers University (TRU). Students were involved in the design of the building and landscaping for the site. Construction trades students (carpenter, plumber and electrical apprentices) participated in both classroom and job site work under the close supervision of journeymen and experienced instructors.

The EchoHaven Project

The EchoHaven EQuilibrium™ project is a 225.3 m2 (2,425 sq. ft.) home located in a new 25 building lot development in the City of Calgary — a sustainable community created and developed by Echo-Logic Land Corporation. Key features of the home include: site sensitive building location, orientation and design; highly energy efficient building envelope to reduce space conditioning needs; heat recovery ventilation; a dedicated 5.46 kW photovoltaic (PV) array and a planned community PV array; on-site active solar thermal heating panels; rain water harvesting for site irrigation, toilet flushing and clothes washing; and, low pollutant emitting materials and finishes.

For more information on the EchoHavenEQuilibrium™ Housing project, see the Project Profile.

The EchoHaven Team

The owner and developer of Echo Haven is Echo-Logic Land Corporation, a Calgary-based development company specializing in ecologically sustainable housing. For four years, Echo-logic worked with Bow Crow Design / Sunergy Systems Ltd. and a team of expert consultants, municipal officials and the local community to create a true “best practice” solution for smarter urban development. The corporation intends to preserve more than 60% of the natural features of the 2.6 hectare (6.4 acre) site, in part by clustering building lots in the least environmentally sensitive areas and minimizing site grading and other disturbances. Each lot has good solar access and is relatively small, thereby helping limit house size and associated resource consumption. The size of the homes also reduces the impact of the residential development on the ecological integrity of the site. Homes are close to public transit and will share planned community amenities such as a common 25 kW photovoltaic (PV) array, a greenhouse, a community building, and a composting and recycling centre.

Urban Ecology

Urban Ecology is a new, two storey 119.5 m2 (1287 sq. ft.) semi-detached duplex with basement located on an infill site in a rejuvenated downtown area of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The main floor features an accessible, open-concept design with living room, galley kitchen, dining room and two piece barrier-free bathroom. The site is within convenient walking or biking distance to a wide variety of amenities including shops, transit and parks. The project is targeted toward low to moderate income families and key features include: an energy-efficient building envelope and passive solar heating; flat plate solar collector system for space and domestic hot water heat; grid-connected photovoltaic system, and a drain water heat recovery system. The modest design with the focus on quality and affordability rather than quantity will help Urban Ecology reduce its impact on the planet, consume fewer resources, and generate less waste than the typical contemporary Canadian home.

The Urban Ecology Team

The developer of Urban Ecology, Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corporation (WHRC) is a non-profit developer and manager of affordable housing in Winnipeg. Winnipeg Housing was founded in the late 1970s as a not-for-profit corporation involved in the development, renovation, ownership and management of affordable housing primarily in Winnipeg's inner city. In addition to the development and maintenance of quality affordable housing WHRC provides their tenants with the tools necessary to access many of the community supports available to them through resource coordination and education.

For more information on the Urban EcologyEQuilibrium™ Housing project, see the Project Profile.

Harmony House Tour (optional — limited registration)

On an optional third day of the EQuilibrium™ Housing Forum (October 25, 2012), Forum participants visited the Harmony House EQuilibrium™ Housing project in Burnaby. The Tour was conducted by experienced guides from the project team and the homeowners. A limited number of seats were available for the tour by advance registration only and only to registrants of the EQuilibrium™ Housing Forum.

Forum Venue

Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue — Simon Fraser University

The Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue is an internationally recognized environment thoughtfully designed for meetings and conferences, offering a full range of services and up-to-date technologies. Forum sessions will be held in the Asia Pacific Hall, a dramatic, comfortable and inspiring space for dialogue and interaction, featuring natural light from the 16’ high heritage windows and seating beneath a magnificent 26’ high coffered heritage ceiling. Provisions for interaction amongst participants are built directly into the design of the hall.

Forum Location

580 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 1L6
(enter via Seymour Street courtyard entrance)

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The Wosk Centre for Dialogue is located in Vancouver's Heritage District, close to historic Gastown, Vancouver’s theatres and sports arenas. Simon Fraser University's main downtown campus building of Harbour Centre is situated directly across the street, and the Segal Graduate School of Business is one block away. The city's principal transportation hub, Waterfront Station, is also one block away, providing access to the SeaBus, SkyTrain and West Coast Express.

Vancouver’s international airport (YVR) is just 35 minutes by car, and linked by the new Canada Line with its terminus also one block away. Nearly all of Vancouver's major hotels are within a short walking distance, along with retail complexes, international shopping districts, theatres and other cultural institutions and restaurants.

Conference Fees

$395.50 (incl. HST)  
Student: $113.00 (incl. HST)  

EQuilibrium™ Housing Public Lecture

 “The Now House® EQuilibrium™ Housing Retrofit Project”

CMHC was pleased to present a free public lecture on sustainable housing retrofits, featuring the Now House® project. The Now House® is a retrofit 60-year old post-war house in an established neighbourhood of similar houses in Toronto. This one and a half storey, 139 m2 (1,496 sq. ft.) (including basement) detached home has been upgraded to increase energy efficiency, improve indoor air quality, produce energy through renewable sources and recover energy that would otherwise be lost from waste water and exhaust air. The upgrade required minimal new resources and reduced the impact of the house on the environment. Now House® shows homeowners and building industry professionals how to dramatically improve the environmental performance of an existing house with straightforward modifications, such as improved insulation, new windows, energy-saving appliances and continuous air exchange and filtration. About one million one and a half storey houses were built in Canada between 1945 and 1960, therefore, the benefits of this project — energy efficiency, healthy living and resource management and conservation — can be readily repeated.

For more information on the Now House® EQuilibrium™ Housing project, see the detailed Project Profile.

The Now House Team

The Now House® was conceived by Work Worth Doing design studio and developed in collaboration with David Fujiwara Architect, Copperhead Mechanical and Sunshine Valley Homes along with the expertise and support of several product manufacturers. Together, the team offers a wealth of experience in sustainable design and construction, education, marketing and communications.

Work Worth Doing is an interdisciplinary design studio creating positive social and environmental actions for corporations, governments, and communities. Their current projects involve the greening of houses, preserving cultural heritage, and understanding the intersection of design, society, and the environment.


Ms. Lorraine Gauthier, President, The Now House Project Inc.

Public Lecture Location

Room 1400, Segal Centre
SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC.

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