Living laboratory is run by the sun

North House, the prefabricated solar-powered home that earned international accolades for the University of Waterloo, has found a permanent home on the Rare Charitable Research Reserve near Cambridge, Ontario. There, it will serve as a living laboratory for students and faculty researching cleaner, more sustainable energy.

By Bob Burtt

Communications & Public Affairs

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North House, a prefabricated solar powered house.

North House, the prefabricated solar-powered home that earned international accolades for the University of Waterloo, has found a permanent home on the Rare Charitable Research Reserve on Blair Road near Cambridge, Ontario.

Designed by students and faculty from the University of Waterloo, Ryerson and Simon Fraser Universities, North House came fourth in the international solar decathlon competition in Washington, D.C. in 2009.

“It really is a testing laboratory prototype, said David Lieberman, an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo who is advising Rare on the project.

In its new location, solar energy generated by North House power both the building and a nearby farmhouse on the Rare property.

“The house will serve as a living lab and be available to university students and faculty doing research and will be open for public open houses and school groups to see the options and really interesting technology that exists,” says Amanda Newell who is coordinating the project for Rare.

Newell said the ultimate use for the house hasn’t been decided yet, but consideration has been given to using it as an administrative centre for the nearby community gardens on the property, or at some point, to accommodate a writer in residence for rare.

Cutting edge technology

Some of the innovations designed into North House include

  • New window and shading systems.
  • Advanced digital controls that enable owners to interact more meaningfully with the house.
  • Use of a highly insulated thermal envelope to minimize the demand for heat.
  • A material in the floor that will capture heat from the sun during the day and release it at night.
  • The most effective solar photovoltaic technologies.