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Canadian team showcases net-zero home solution at Solar Decathlon

Lance Tao

By Lance Tao

August 23, 2018

More than 400,000 people are gathering this August in Dezhou, a small city in Shandong province where solar panel production is the main industry.

The city is hosting the 2018 Solar Decathlon Competition, an international showcase of solar-powered net-zero housing. The competition invited 19 teams from 34 universities around the world. McGill and Concordia Universities teamed up as TeamMTL, the only Canadian team in the competition. The houses will remain permanently on site as part of an Innovation Park dedicated to high-performance building and breakthroughs in renewable energy research.

TeamMTL has won five awards in the competition, including Third Place in Engineering Contest, Third Place in Innovation Contest, First Place in Communications Contest, First Place in Market Appeal Contest and First Place in Architecture Contest.

McGill and Concordia Universities teamed up as TeamMTL, the only Canadian team in the competition. Their entry, known as the Deep Performance Dwelling (DPD), combines a Montréal row-house design with elements of traditional Chinese siheyuan courtyard architecture. All building components were manufactured in Canada and shipped to China. A local wood construction builder then put it together.

DPD house is a prefabricated high performance structure built with Canadian wood and technology. It was erected and finished within 20 days by dozens of workers. Canada Wood China provided design review support to TeamMTL and set up a booth beside the house demonstration area.

SLOW HOUSE from Team HK University and Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture and NATURE/BETWEEN HOUSE from Xiamen University are other highlighted projects featuring wood as structural elements at Solar Decathlon.

The chief architect of SLOW HOSUE told us that glulam is excellent as a main structure element because it provides a warm and comfortable living experience. It’s also great for builders because he said it’s easy to work with, which means quicker construction times. Project designers believe the market potential is huge because they are targeting the “new farmer” in China. They see SLOW HOUSE as ideal for people who want to live outside of China’s hectic cities and families who want their own vacation home.

Xiamen University Professor Chen Lanying is the onsite manager of NATURE/BETWEEN HOUSE, another house built out of Canadian wood. Chen, who attended our Canada Wood vocational school training earlier, told us they altered the Canadian 2×4 wall system in order to increase the thermal performance of the building to meet the stringent requirement of a net-zero home. NATURE/BETWEEN HOUSE features organic building materials such as wood, bamboo and straw that comprise 90% of the home.

Although China’s housing starts have been slowing down in recent years, it remains the world’s largest construction market. For China to meet its Paris Agreement commitment, it’s critical to dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the country’s built environment. The net zero home might be a solution.