The First Now House

The Design Competition


To establish a clear vision of the long-term benefits of EQuilibrium Housing (previously the Net Zero Energy Healthy House Project), CMHC challenged builders and developers from across Canada to submit proposals to take part in a unique pilot project.

A total of 72 teams responded to the challenge, and after an intensive selection process, 12 teams were chosen to build EQuilibrium demonstration homes (Now House retrofited an existing house) across the country. In addition to receiving technical, marketing and financial support, the teams will take a lead role in spearheading the spread of housing that is healthy, affordable, sustainable and energy-efficient.

Each team was required to test their proposed design using an Integrated Design Process. In late December 2006, the Now House team invited the who’s who of the sustainable design community in Toronto to do just that. This interdisciplinary process pushed our design thinking further and helped us achieve a solution appropriate to a modest wartime home.

Once they are complete, the demonstration homes will also offer a unique opportunity to measure the performance of EQuilibrium housing under real-world conditions on a national scale.

EQuilibrium homes offer potential homebuyers and homeowners such benefits as:

  • Lower energy bills in every season;
  • Healthier and more comfortable homes;
  • A reliable, renewable supply of power;
  • Long-term affordability with significantly lower operating costs;
  • A greatly reduced environmental impact; and
  • Vital and sustainable communities for generations to come.

The Retrofit Process

To achieve our goal of a near zero energy retrofit we made the following changes to this home. As all existing houses have a unique set of conditions and characteristics, the application of the Now House process to another house would produce different design specifications. What follows is not a prescription for the near zero retrofit of all homes.