Archetype Sustainable House


Despite the abundance of sustainable building technologies in today’s market, various social, technical and financial barriers have slowed the green transformation of the building market. The Archetype Sustainable House project was initiated to educate and motivate the public and building industry professionals to move beyond these obstacles and to adopt greener building practices.

By showcasing the best green technologies and designs the market has to offer in a real-world, full-scale demonstration, the house reveals the feasibility of building homes that use less energy, water and natural resources, and generate less waste, while also being more comfortable and providing a healthier indoor environment for occupants.

The following primary themes were incorporated into the design of the Archetype Sustainable House. Click on each theme to learn more.








Project Beginnings

In 2005, Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) and the Design Exchange launched the Archetype Sustainable House Design Competition, which engaged architects, engineers, designers and graduate students from across Canada.

The challenge was to design a viable, sustainable single-family dwelling that would serve as a model or “archetype” for future housing developments in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

In June 2006, the “Building Blocks” entry was selected by a panel of judges as the winning design.

Two identical houses were built in three months during the summer of 2008.  House A was intended to be equipped with technologies that are practical in today’s market, while House B would showcase technologies of the future.The Archetype Sustainable House under construction

Designing a Living City Lab

The Archetype Sustainable House was designed and constructed as a living laboratory for the testing and research of sustainable building technologies. More than 400 calibrated sensors monitor the performance of the building’s systems, incoming and outgoing energy fluxes, and internal environment conditions.

An on-site weather station measures outdoor meteorological conditions, providing site-specific climate data. A National Instruments data acquisition system is used to process data received from the various sensors and is programmed to provide real-time monitoring and data processing.

Measurements are also collected and recorded in an MS SQL database. Plug-and play capabilities enable removal and installation of new systems and technologies for testing and evaluation as they become available.

The living room of TRCA's archetype sustainable house

A Tool for Real-World Research and Education

Since its construction, more than 40 PhD and Masters theses have been conducted on the house. This house provides industry a chance to verify, demonstrate and pre-commercialize project ideas while providing students with a real-world learning facility.

The Archetype Sustainable House also serves as a key educational tool around which school programs and green home workshops have been developed.

students participate in a school program at the Archetype Sustainable House

In addition, monitoring programs are carried out in order to evaluate the performance of the two houses with respect to water conservation, stormwater management, and energy efficiency.

Experienced staff from TRCA’s Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program (STEP) conduct independent third-party product evaluations at this Lab.

This research yields valuable information on the performance of these technologies and helps to determine best practices for their operation and maintenance, which STEP disseminates to industry, government, academia and the general public.

Research at the Archetype Sustainable House

This “Living City” lab is also a place to evaluate costs and savings associated with individual technologies and materials will also be assessed relative to conventional alternatives to determine pay-back periods and assign a dollar value to the energy and water conservation data.

Below are examples of sustainable technologies evaluated at the Archetype Sustainable House.

Evaluation of Residential Ground and Air Source Heat Pump Technologies

Evaluation of a Residential Energy Monitoring and Management System

Evaluation of Residential Drain Water Heat Recovery Unit

Evaluation of Vertical and Horizontal Geoexchange Systems

Thermal Comfort Assessment of Two Semi-Detached Houses

Watch the videos below to learn more about the sustainable technologies being tested, monitored and evaluated for performance at the Archetype Sustainable House.

The Living City Campus offers a broad scope of opportunities for like-minded individuals and organizations to help cultivate real solutions by providing a range of engagement levels that will appeal to your organization’s objectives and capacities.

Sustainable, green building technologies aren’t somewhere off in the distant future. They’re within reach — right here, right now. Whether you’re in the construction industry or a resident eager to incorporate green practices at home, The Living City Campus workshops keep you on the cutting edge.

Maximizing a small space through design to create a “Big House” feel and comfort level.

This video shows the accessibility features of the Archetype Sustainable House – House A.


This project was made possible through generous support of all sponsors.


City of Toronto :
Monetary sponsor
David Knight :
Monetary sponsor
York Region
Monetary sponsor
Earth Rangers :
Monetary sponsor
Empire Communities :
Project management, carpenters and furnishings
Home Depot :
Monetary sponsor
Metrus :
Permeable pavers and monitoring of stormwater
Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure:
Educational funding
Royal Bank of Canada :
Monetary sponsor
Region of Peel :
Monetary sponsor
Reliance Home Comfort :
HVAC team lead – BILD liason – Renewable energy and onsite generation equipment
Royal Wood Construction Ltd.:
Framming team leader and carpenters
Arise Technologies :
Solar PV
Arista Homes :
Dryvit installation
Baywood Homes :
Berkshire Homes :
House B, drywall and masonry fireplace
Canadian Infloor Heating :
Infloor radiant heating installation
Eden Oak :
House A, drywall
Fleming College :
Engineered wetlands design
FRAM Building Group :
Carpenters and air sealing
George Brown College :
Plumbing installation
Habitat for Humanity :
Project management and labor
Hydro One :
Monetary sponsor
JELD-WEN Windows & Doors :
House B, windows and Installation
Judo Water Treatment :
Plumbing team lead and filter supplier
Marvin Windows :
House A, window supply and install
Metro Group :
Waste management
Natural Resources Canada :
Co-Gen supplier
Orchard Ridge Homes Powerstream :
Electrical utility connections
Sorbara Group :
Interior finishes team lead
Exteriror insulation and stucco Installer
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America :
Project management and carpenters
Ryerson University :
Monitoring and verification, energy audit and reporting
AFM Safe Coat Paints Boomerang Recycled Paints City of Vaughan
Clearsphere Ecopaints Mindscape Innovations
Mitsubishi Osram Sylvania The Install Team by Project Innovations (BRAC)
The Zero Point Timeless Glass and Mirror
A Budget Heating :
House A, HVAC installation
Advance Tile and Flooring Coverings :
Tile installers
Air Solutions :
Vanee HRV’s and Energy Star evaluator
Airmax Technologies :
Sheet metal team lead
Alpha-Tec Consulting :
LEED Green Rater
Aluma Systems :
Interior stairs
Hydronic air handler
Aquatech :
Monetary sponsor
Automated Door Systems :
Garage door Installation
Bolton Electric :
Bolton Stair and Railing :
Stair railings
Brooklin Quality Concrete :
Wetland, septic tank and reflective pavers
Bullseye Marketing :
Monetary sponsor
CallRich Eco Services :
Heat lok soya, foam insulation
Cammio Construction Ltd. :
Canex :
Exterior finish and stucco
CCI Plumbing and Heating Limited :
Service and sanitary plumbing Installation
Centura Tile :
Drywall supplier
Conservatory Group :
Cooltech Home Comfort :
House B, HVAC and sheet metal
D&D Painters :
Paint labourers
Daro Flooring Construction Ltd. :
Radiant flooring concrete
DEKKOR Fine Hardware :
Hinges and lock sets
Dow :
Basement and slab insulation
Dryvit Systems :
EIFS stucco supplier
Durisol Block :
Foundation block
DX2 Technologies :
Monitoring data interface software for energy systems
Eden Energy :
GSHP supplier
Elitrex Plumbing :
Plumbing installers
Enbridge :
Gas connections
Fieldgate Homes FORT Architect Inc. :
Four Star Drywall :
House B, drywall Installation
Garaga :
Garage doors
GE :
House B appliances
Generation Carpentry :
Geothermal Solutions :
Ground source loop and installation
Green Neighbourhood Homes
Greenpark :
Carpenters Union Central Ontario Regional Council, Local 27 Trust Fund :
Project management and carpenters
Hanson Brick :
Fireplace and decorative wall bricks
Harring Doors :
FSC interior doors
Heritage Electric :
Electric installer
Healthiest Home :
House A kitchen, designer and installer
HOK Architectural :
Hunter Douglas :
Window dressing
Icynene :
House B spray foam insualtion – first floor
Insulspan :
SIPS roof panel manufactuer
Jager Wood Products :
Engineered joists
Kent Trusses :
SIPS panel supplier
Kohler :
Plumbing fixtures
Lafarge Concrete :
Hi slag content concrete
Lemieux Enterprises Lucky Carpentry:
Maibec :
FSC certified wood siding
Maple Drywall :
Marel Contractors :
Tapers Labourer
Marshall Homes :
Vapour barrier installer
Masco (Delta) :
Water fixtures
Metalworks :
Sheet metal supplier
MITS Air :
House A, all climate heat pump supplier
Montezzi Construction :
Muskoka Timber Mills :
FSC wood trim
Nadurra Wood :
FSC maple flooring
Napoleon Fireplaces :
House A, wood stove
Nicholson and Cates :
Supplier of FSC Maibec siding
North On Sixty :
House B, FSC kitchen cabinetry
Nu-Air Ventilation :
Integrated hydronic air handler and HRV
Ontario Youth Apprenticeship
Apprentice trim carpenters
Paradise Homes :
Exteriror insulation and stucco installer
Powerwatch :
In home energy display monitor supplier
Rassland :
Bathroom cabintry
Renewability :
Drain water heat recovery
Reversomatic Manufacturing :
Garage exhaust fans
Roxul :
House A, batt insulation
Royal Pine Homes :
Footings and concrete instalation
Sears Canada :
Energy Star appliances in house A and furnishings
Sescolite :
Light fixtures
Silver Carpentry :
Solar Ontario :
Evacuated tube solar installation
Solsmart :
GP solar installation
Your Solar Home :
Solar wall
Soprema :
House A, green roof
Stone’s Throw Design Inc. :
Sun-Brite Drapery :
Window dressing and shade installation
Taymor Industries :
Door hardware
Temp-cast Fireplaces :
House B, thermal mass fireplace
Terrafix Geosynthetics :
House B, permeable grass pavers
The Morgan Group :
Hydronics team lead
Torlys :
House B, bambo engineered flooring
Trican Masonry :
Masonry fireplace and decorative wall intaller
Trim Association of Ontario :
Interior trim installation
Union Gas :
Upper Canada Forest Products :
FSC lumber
Uponor Ltd :
Infloor radiant heating tubing, manifolds and pump sets
Vacuflo :
Vacumn system
VanEE :
Manufacturer of HRV
Viessmann :
Boiler and solar thermal supplier
Water Furnace :
Ground source heat pump manufaturer
Wolseley Canada :
Hydronic air handler
Sharp :
Boomerang Paint :
Recycled, low VOC paint supplier
Cornell Chemical :
Heat lok soya, foam insulation
Décor and Living :
Fireplace installer
Eco Response :
In home energy display
Ecologix :
Zoned air handler
Ecopaint :
Low VOC paint supplier
Enerquality :
Energstar and GreenHouse Labeller
Harring Doors :
FSC interior doors
Heritage Siding and Windows :
Siding installation
Maxxmar Window Coverings :
Sun shades
Mindscape :
LEED Service Provider
Ontario Power Authority :
Osram Sylvania :
Solo Electric :
Electrical installater
Timber Systems :
FSC beams
Vacuflow :
Vacumn system
Wilo Canada Inc. :
Circulating Pumps
Essroc Cement