Now House was originally a vision of the design consultancy Work Worth Doing (WWD). Founding partners, Lorraine Gauthier and Alex Quinto believed that there were hundreds of sustainable products and building practices available, but people had a hard time finding them. We wanted to create a Now House that would employ energy efficient, healthy home standards and serve as a demonstration project and a laboratory for future product development. For a few years, Now House was a virtual site on the WWD website providing free access to a database of sustainable products and building materials. Typically, ideas for sustainable buildings involve new builds, but we came to question the convention that sustainable homes have to be designed and built from the ground up.
Through our re-examination of the standard starting point, we found that improving existing houses is one of our biggest environmental challenges. In Canada, the residential sector accounts for 17% of total energy use and 16% of the countryís green house gas (GHG) emissions. In Toronto, where we live and work, that number is higher with the residential sector contributing 25% of our GHG. So, while itís important to be smarter about the new houses we build, about 66% of the houses that will exist in 2050 are already standing.
Inspired by the environmental challenge created by existing houses, we wanted to contribute a new perspective to the sustainable building and design community. When Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation announced the Net Zero Energy Healthy Home design competition, we saw it as an opportunity to transform our vision into a reality. WWD brought together a team including an architect, mechanical engineer, urban designer and technical and social researchers to collaborate on the project. From 72 competing teams from across Canada, Now House was chosen as one of the 12 winning teams, and is the only team focused on the renovation and retrofit market. CMHC has rebranded this innovative housing project as EQuilibrium Sustainable Housing Initiative.