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4 things that make Active House stand out

(This is the conclusion of a two-part series on Active House, a Scandinavian-style home design that strives to provide industry-leading comfort, energy efficiency and environmental conservation. ) 

Russell Ibbotson lines up three hand-held gadgets on the kitchen island at the Centennial Park Active House.

The engineer scoops up his cellphone with temperature-measurement attachment and aims its camera lens at the family room wall. Even on a blustery, winter day in west Etobicoke, it’s 20.4 Celsius. Ibbotson has been measuring the temperature, humidity, energy, daylight and wind at the 2,900-sq.-ft. house during a six-month live-in experiment. He says that, compared to living in his 130-year-old house, the super-home’s performance has been a revelation.

“This is changing the paradigm on how we look at space,” says Ibbotson, an engineer and technical manager of building industry for Velux Canada.

Here are four features of Centennial Park Active House that make it special.

  1. Windows: Triple-pane windows, including floor-to-ceiling, and skylights throughout the home allow a lot of light while sealing in heat during winter or cool during summer, and providing a sense of well-being for the occupants (the Velux skylights and sun tunnels also provide a view of the stars at night).
  2. Air quality: The home was designed to reduce the amount of energy needed for air conditioning and to remove stale air. Natural ventilation is driven by either cross-ventilation via the wind or “stack effect” (hot air rises, cold air sinks). The windows and operable skylights facilitate natural air flow.
  3. Energy: It is produced by a heat pump and gas furnace. Gas and electricity is supplied by Bullfrogpower, which delivers energy from renewable sources. The home also features a Tesla Powerwall rechargeable battery in the basement which powers the refrigerator, HVAC, LED lighting and a few plugs during the day and recharges during off-peak hours. Low-flow plumbing fixtures keep the water bills down, and few of the lights need to be on during the day because of the natural light pouring in through the windows.
  4. Courtyard: There is a two-storey, C-shaped outdoor courtyard with a tree built into one side of the house which is visible from the family room at the back of the home through to the front door, giving a feeling of the outdoors being inside. It’s also a focal point on the second floor.

This single-detached home is only the beginning, says Great Gulf president Christopher Wein. The future for the concept is in intensification, including the creation of an “Active Block” – a group of six to eight Active House townhomes. Or maybe something taller.

“Multi-family living is the future. I’d love to build an Active Tower … an Active House skyscraper,” or even an office building, Wein says. “The iPhone wasn’t wanted until it was built; sometimes I believe if you build it, they will come.”

As for the future of the Centennial Park house, it eventually will be put on the market for sale. Any offers?

Click here to read part 1 of this article.

For more on this home, check out

— Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, has represented the building industry since 1991. More of his work can be seen at He can be reached at

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