Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) EQuilibrium Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative combines energy-efficient design and construction or renovation practices with on-site renewable energy systems to produce homes that are highly energy-efficient, provide a healthy place for people to live and aim to achieve near- to net-zero energy consumption annually.
EQuilibrium Housing is a national demonstration initiative led by CMHC that incorporates the principles of occupant health and comfort, renewable energy production, resource conservation, reduced environmental impact and affordability. The initiative brings the private and public sectors together to build and showcase the next generation of sustainable housing in Canada. Through a national design competition, CMHC is working with builder-led teams to design, construct and demonstrate some of the most sustainable market housing ever seen in Canada and is helping them to share their building experiences with wider industry audiences.
Another goal of the EQuilibrium Housing Initiative is to introduce homeowners to practical approaches to reducing their energy bills, protecting their families’ health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Homeowners and industry can learn more about sustainable housing technologies and practices by visiting the EQuilibrium Housing project pages on CMHC’s website.
Through the EQuilibrium Housing initiative, the selected builder teams worked to integrate well-planned, passive solar home design with a wide range of state-of-the-art construction techniques, products and systems to significantly reduce their demonstration home’s energy consumption.
Among the many features that can be used to increase the sustainability of any new house, EQuilibrium homes include climate-specific design tailored to take advantage of the local climate and natural environment.
Natural daylighting is used to provide more pleasing illumination. Energy and resource-efficient construction or renovation methods, materials, appliances and lighting are used throughout the homes. Renewable energy systems and strategies, such as solar electricity and hot water, ground-source heating and cooling and passive solar heating design are used extensively to meet the relatively small energy needs of the homes.
While all of these design elements and construction techniques have already been proven effective on their own, CMHC is working with leading builder-developer teams to demonstrate how to combine and integrate these technologies and practices into practical housing solutions.
Because EQuilibrium homes are connected to the power grid, on days when the home’s renewable energy systems do not produce enough electricity or heat, the home’s energy needs can easily and seamlessly be met with electricity from the grid.
When the home’s photovoltaic panels produce more electricity than is needed, the excess can be delivered back into the grid reducing the home’s net annual electricity consumption. The surplus electricity produced can reduce electricity bills and potentially produce a net income for the homeowner in areas where utilities offer purchase agreements.
Although higher performing homes such as those built under the EQuilibrium Housing initiative can initially cost more to build or renovate than conventional housing, lower operating costs and the potential for revenue generation through the sale of surplus electricity back to the power grid can counterbalance the upfront costs over the home’s lifetime.
In addition, the healthier indoor environment, lower energy bills, increased comfort and other environmental features could increase a home’s resale value. As the technologies and practices become more common, the cost of constructing or renovating sustainable housing is expected to become more affordable.
CMHC’s EQuilibrium Housing Initiative has created a blueprint for healthy and sustainable communities — and a cleaner, brighter energy future for all Canadians. To find out more about EQuilibrium Housing visit our website at www.cmhc.ca/equilibriumhousing.
Mark Salerno is the Corporate Representative for the Greater Toronto Area at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. You can reach him at 416-218-3479 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.