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.

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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

It 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.

interior view of 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