Dedicated to sustainable,
high performance building

Great Gulf Active House

Big builder pushes the boundaries of green residential development

Great Gulf, one of the country’s largest home builders, is simultaneously concerned with being an innovative, forward-thinking company, and a competitive builder in the residential market. This project in Thorold, Ontario was a leap of faith in a market that has not to date shown much interest in sustainability. Using the existing local design guidelines of a traditional gabled roof design and adapting them for the Active House yielded a multi-functional design that was the basis for an open plan, an abundance of interior daylight, and a house of superior environmental performance.

By Meg Graham


The proportions and massing of the house are derived from the design guidelines ensuring that the house sits naturally beside its more traditional neighbours.

Removing visual barriers between living spaces helps give the impression of a home much larger than its 3,200 square feet. The openness of the plan is guided by two intersecting axes that maximize cross breezes and natural ventilation, therefore minimizing a reliance on air conditioning.

Materials and Conservation
The house was designed as a prefabricated panelized wood structure to both reduce construction waste and the duration of on-site construction. Wall, floor and roof panels were factory built, flat packed and brought by truck to the site, and erected in just a few days.
The thermal environment of the Thorold House optimizes comfort and efficiency using zoned heating, HRVs and a high-efficiency furnace. South-facing glazing maximizes solar heat gain in the winter, while overhangs and shades keep the house cool in the summer. A heavily insulated building envelope and home automation system that operates motorized shades, skylights and windows based on heating and cooling loads ensure the house operates efficiently.

A cistern and rain water system was installed to reduce the need for municipal water when watering the lawn or using the low-flush toilets. The system captures rain from the roof and lawn close to the house; water is pumped from the weeping tile system into the cistern.

Project credits
Architect Superkül
Owner/Developer Great Gulf
General Contractor Great Gulf
Mechanical Engineer Enermodal Engineering
Structural Engineer Quaile Engineering Ltd.
Photos Torben Eskerod, Copenhagen, Sweden

– Prefabricated panelized wood structure; closed cell medium density spray foam insulation, also acts as air barrier
VELUX Canada Inc. supplied:
VELUX Daylight Visualizer simulation software, Electric Venting Deck Mounted unit- VSE C01, three Electric Venting Deck Mounted units- VSE C06, eight Electric Venting Deck Mounted units- VSE M08, two Solar Powered Deck Mounted units- VSS M08, and four Solar Powered light filter blinds, M08 size.
– Triple pane, dual-glazed LowE windows
– Variable speed furnace, 19 SEER air conditioner, dual zoned system with two heat recovery ventilators [HRV]; drain water heat recovery using Power Pipe; rain water cistern collects water from perimeter drainage tiles and rain leaders for toilet flushing and hose bibs

Meg Graham OAA, MRAIC  is a principal at superkül in Toronto.