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Ryerson group makes prototype of eco-friendly home

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By Adriana Hyde

Ryerson students have helped develop a prototype of a home that produces as much energy as it consumes. Jamie Fine, project leader and mechanical engineering masters student said the home, called SolarBLOCK, will greatly impact Toronto’s real estate market.

Fine said ECOstudio, the group that designed the home, is currently in talks with Toronto contractors and plans to start construction by fall 2018.

ECOstudio plans to showcase their prototype at the Kortright Centre in Woodbridge, said project team member Hayley Cormick, who has a  background in civil engineering.

Homes powered by solar energy are nothing new, but what sets ECOstudio’s design apart from the rest is how the SolarBLOCK design takes what’s good in a suburban home and translates it to an urban environment, Fine said.

The design is specifically catered to modern Toronto families. It has three bedrooms and measures about 487 square metres. Each unit is two storeys tall and will have a private outdoor space.

ECOstudio hopes to create a building that would fit 16 of these units.

“The house will have enough solar panels to supply all the energy that the house is going to need over an entire year,” he said.  

“You can then generate your own power and sell it to the electrical grid.”

The SolarBLOCK design includes the whole roof and façade as a solar panel, which has the capability to generate heat and electricity.

“This design is to work in an urban environment, such as the outskirts of College, Queen or Dundas Streets, where there is still streetcar access, therefore you don’t really need a car to reduce commute times,” Fine said.

“Most sustainable homes of today are designed … to sit in a field and are not designed to fit in a city dynamic,” he said.

Fine said apartments are too small and aren’t conducive to family-life, but suburban homes are too far away from the core for a family that has to go into the city.

With homes further from the city, more energy and infrastructure are wasted, he said. Fine argued SolarBLOCK will help combat this issue.

He said the team does not have an exact cost for one unit but are aiming for the cost to be the same as a  suburban home in the GTA.

“We’re looking to really show the public what sustainable design and what sustainable homes can be like because typically they’re not very appealing, and we’re really trying to show people that living in a sustainable way can be something that you can do for your family,” Fine said.

The team did not have such big plans in mind four years ago. The project originally began as a proposal in a large international solar decathlon before the team dropped out to research solar-powered housing.

ECOstudio consists of 70 architectural, engineering and building science students at Ryerson, Seneca College and the University of Toronto. The team also works alongside 21 professors/advisors and 16 industry partners.

“We’re trying to make a difference and deliver the whole package of what a home can be which is affordable, sustainable dense and desirable,” said Fine.

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