RESCON: Active House symposium puts focus on comfort

An active house supports the vision of buildings that create healthier and more comfortable lives for their residents.

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This month’s Active House symposium shines a spotlight on the future of housing to Toronto, focusing on the welfare of the occupant, the quality of the building and the environment. (Held Sept. 16-17.)

You may have read about Active House in these pages a while back – it’s a European building practice that is based on a balanced and holistic approach to building design and performance.

Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works will see delegates from at least seven countries – Canada, the U.S., China, the U.K., Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands – involved in a two-day Active House symposium on Sept. 17-18. It will be the first time that Canada will host the Active House summit. The event will include interactive talks, presentations, education and networking with building professionals from around the world.

We’ll be there among the many builders, architects, academics, engineers, regulators, designers and students who have an interest in the future of housing.

While it will be a very technical conference, there will also be a dash of personal experience mixed in, including from Velux engineer Russell Ibbotson, who lived in Great Gulf Homes’ Active House model home in Etobicoke during six months in 2016-’17 before its owner took possession of the single-family home.

During the time that he, his wife Bethany and three children (four now) lived there, Ibbotson was busy measuring energy consumption and temperature fluctuations. His family provided the practical context for the benefits of living in this kind of home.

“You need those real-life scenarios to measure what life is like in an Active House home. My wife didn’t have to wear slippers in the morning in the middle of winter,” Ibbotson says. And then there was a discovery on the kitchen’s soundproof wooden floors. “I could jump up and down on the floor and my beer on the counter didn’t spill.”

And then there was a magical moment he had with his daughter, Eleanor (then 3), who said to him while lying down staring at the stars through the Velux skylight in her upstairs bedroom: “It’s just like living outside.”

“Those are the emotional moments where we can explain our holistic experience to everyone,” he adds.

A shared vision for new homes is what drew Great Gulf to become heavily involved in Active House shortly after it was founded 10 years ago, says the Toronto-based executive who will open the two-day event.

“Active House supports the vision of buildings that create healthier and more comfortable lives for their residents without impacting negatively on the climate and environment,” says Tad Putyra, Great Gulf president and COO for low-rise. “This will move us towards a cleaner, healthier and safer world.

“We use wood in our homes, including mid-rise residential buildings, because it is a sustainable resource of the future. We’ve already built several Active Houses in Ontario and use these as prototypes. We have included some of these elements in our current projects which are being extensively tested and implemented in our homes to improve our standard product. This includes improvement in daylight, climate control and overall building science.”

Shaun Joffe, Great Gulf’s executive director of sustainability and building sciences, adds: “This will be a great conversation centred around innovative residential construction: these buildings are evaluated on the interaction between three core principles: comfort (the indoor climate conditions); energy consumption; and the impact on the environment.”

It’s going to be an amazing event. For more information and to register, go to activehouse.ca.

Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, has represented the building industry in Ontario since 1991. He is also a frequent speaker and writer on issues related to the construction industry. Contact him @RESCONprez or at media@rescon.com.

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