Yesterday, I took a gander at the reused shipping container-based World FLEX Home, the first modular building system designed to meet Active House standards. While Active House projects are still somewhat of a rarity in North America, it appears that Canada will be getting its very first development designed in accordance to criteria established by the Danish-borne green building movement in the form of Lighthaus, a development of 20 skylight-heavy luxury townhouses located in Toronto’s hip Brockton Village nabe.

As a quick refresher, the Active House standard has little to do with the hot-in-Brooklyn Passivhaus movement that relies primarily on energy savings through super-tight insulation, high performance windows, and building orientation and not on renewable energy systems. Rather, Active House is a more holistic take on net-zero housing (i.e. the home produces just as much or more energy than it consumes) that focuses heavily on indoor air quality, healthy building materials, and energy balance. In a nutshell: “Active House is a vision of buildings that create healthier and more comfortable lives for their occupants without negative impact on the climate — moving us towards a cleaner, healthier and safer world.” 

With an overwhelming focus on natural light and fresh air, the energy-saving centerpiece of Lighthaus is an automated modular skylight system from Velux that beams sunlight through a light well that dissects each of the modern three-story homes.

The Foster & Partners-designed skylight, which is joined by other smaller skylights and a glass wall at the rear of the homes, can be opened and closed to draw in fresh air and expel the hot and stale stuff. This innovative skylight/ventilation system renders mechanical ventilation and air conditioning systems irrelevant as the home truly “breaths all by itself.” And in the event of rain, the skylight automatically closes. Sunlight too harsh? No sweat … let the glare-reducing auto-blinds kick into action.

Explains Nels Moxness, President of Velux Canada in a press release announcing the project: “North Americans spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors and so it is important that we maximize the amount of natural daylight in our homes. Daylight and fresh air refresh us. They help us think, perform better, and boost our spirits. That’s why a Lighthaus home is designed to incorporate as much natural light as possible. To make the time spent indoors more enjoyable, healthy and inviting, and to enhance the well-being of those who live in one.”

Other than the crazy Velux skylight system, each of the Stamp Architecture-designed Lighthaus townhomes feature energy-efficient appliances, low-E windows, heavy levels of insulation, and an air barrier system enclosing the entire envelope of the building. In addition to meeting Active House standards, the brick- and wood-clad homes, each measuring between 2,200- and 3,386-square-feet and organized around a central courtyard, are also designed to meet Energy Star standards.

As for basics, each townhome sports three bedrooms, a basement, a two-car garage, a private backyard terrace, ample storage space, and a spacious open floor plan centered around dinner party-ready kitchens that come complete with a 12-foot-long islands. Toronto-based firm Cecconi Simone served as interior designer for the project while Janet Rosenberg served as landscape architect.

We’ve been talking about this project for years,” Tad Putyra, the president of the low-rise division of project mega-developer and builder Great Gulf Homes, tells the Toronto Star. “We always wanted to have a project that is very progressive in design and environmental responsibility.”

He goes on to liken the Lighthaus project to a concept car: “It’s a limited, special release; private reserve almost. But like with any concept project, we know elements of it will filter down into other layers of our business as well. Whether it’s suburban construction or something in Toronto, we have other projects that can very easily absorb some of the elements we have used with Lighthaus.”

On the topic of cars, the Lighthaus community has a not-too-shabby Walk Score of 82 with a gazillion amenities just a quick stroll away on Queen St. W. The development's Transit Score is 94.


Prices for Lighthaus townhomes at Brockton Village reportedly start at $949,000 and top off at over $1.4 million.

More on the project here as well as over at the the Star.

Via [Toronto Star]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Active House movement hits Toronto with skylight-centric luxury condos
Lighthaus, a development of 20 luxury townhouses in Toronto, boasts innovative modular skylight systems from Velux that promote fresh air and natural light.