Homebuilder Great Gulf has unveiled a model Active House as part of the latest phase of its Summerlyn community in Bradford, Ont., launching what the firm says is a globally celebrated package of sustainable and healthy living standards.
Active Houses are based on a building standard originating in Denmark, with Great Gulf involved as a curator of the concept for 10 years, explained Tad Putyra, president of Great Gulf low-rise and home technology. He’s also a member of the international Active House Alliance’s board of advisory committee.
The Active House package is available as a customizable option for homebuyers at Summerlyn and other new Great Gulf communities across much of Ontario, with panels and other components prefabricated in Great Gulf’s 200,000-square-foot Toronto manufacturing plant.
“We are part of this international community of scientists, manufacturers, designers, everybody who is contributing to the concept of shelter,” said Putyra. “The overarching idea is to have a holistic approach, which is addressing sustainability, while also addressing the performance of the product and satisfaction of the buyer.”
Great Gulf and its Active House partner Velux, based in Denmark, are both founding members of the Brussels-based Active House Alliance. Over the past 10 years Active House principles and specifications have been applied to numerous building types including single-family and multi-family residential, social housing, offices and schools.
Through the alliance Putyra and Great Gulf have had a big presence developing the standard in China, South America, Australia and elsewhere, he said.
Great Gulf explained at the Sept. 20 presentation that Active House is both a label for precision sustainable buildings as well as a scientific methodology with standards for indoor comfort, energy efficiency and eco-friendly practices. Great Gulf’s Active House is Energy Star certified, EnerGuide rated and net-zero ready, and its wood panels are CSA approved.
The standard, with its prescriptions for energy, water preservation, minimization of construction waste, focus on natural light and fresh air and consistency in thermal environment, has been customized for Ontario with additional measures such as future-proofing the home for aging in place.
The package also targets buyers who work from home, with extra sound absorption and insulation.
The debate over the need to build sustainable homes is over, Putyra said.
“Then we layer it with additional values which homeowners will appreciate and basically, we’re commercializing sustainability, just because if you have a cool product, if you have a product which makes your life easier or more enjoyable, then you might have an interest in it,” he said.
Great Gulf’s Toronto manufacturing plant enables the firm to operate like an automobile manufacturer, Putyra said, constantly undertaking R and D and seeking continuous improvement.
The team of 130 employees includes a dozen or so CAD technicians who model each house in 3D, minimizing the “messy” mistakes and omissions that typically mar traditional builds. Other workers operate automated computer numerical equipment and production teams work on the manufacturing floor on a 300-foot production line.
“All the elements, all the panels, floors, walls, in this case also the roof are produced with a precision of 1/16 of an inch, which fits better,” he said. “Obviously they are more efficient and they are creating a better-performing structure also from an environmental point of view.”
Great Gulf has built 1,200 homes at Summerlyn since 2008, Putyra said, with the singles in the latest phase selling in the $1.4-million range. The Active House package starts with a premium of about $50,000.
The Summerlyn Active House model home covers 3,185 square feet. Active House partners besides Velux include Moen, Owens Corning, QTK Fine Cabinetry, GlowBrand, Greyter Water Systems, Mitsubishi Electric, Honeywell Home and Uponor.
Among sustainability features, continuous exterior insulation and proper cavity wall insulations are intended to make the home quieter, warmer and protected against moisture. Solar panels feed energy to a central battery, making the building certified net-zero ready. LED lighting systems, low-flow water fixtures, energy-efficient appliances and triple-glazed windows also improve energy savings.
Extensive research over the past decade, plus the experiences of the Active House developers around the globe, have led to the features Great Gulf is offering to Active House buyers in Bradford, Putyra said.
“That’s the beauty of the Active House concept, that customers can make a decision,” he said. “How far Active do they want to go?”
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