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photo credit: VELUX


The very first certified Active House in the world is in Ontario. 

More than just bricks and mortar, Active House is a modern design phenomenon – a fully integrated residential home created to deliver energy efficiency, low environmental impact and optimized climate control and ventilation via active systems designed to produce a home of comfort and well-being. 

The project was designed by Toronto-based architecture firm superkül. Building Knowledge Canada Inc., Brockport Home Systems Ltd., Danish Technical Institute and VELUX A/S Building Industry (which in addition to being a manufacturer, operates a program to encourage research in daylighting) also contributed. 

Great Gulf built the house with a mission to emphasize the lifestyle benefits of the Active House method (comfort, energy, environment, sustainability and lifestyle), and position it as a building philosophy of the future. The method creates a healthier and more comfortable life, contributes positively to the energy balance of the building and has a positive impact on the environment. [1]

The design strategy for Active House 1 in Thorold, Ontario considered the environmental impact of the entire life cycle of the home from concept to performance. Prefabrication ensured a more efficient construction process while significantly reducing material waste, energy use and accident risk. Siting, massing and orientation of the rooms take advantage of passive solar gain while maximizing efficiency of the solar hot-water system. Specific energy-saving and environmentally conscious features such as interior and exterior LED lighting systems, triple-glazing, low-flow water fixtures, low-VOC finishes and energy-performance monitoring systems complement the primary design strategy of exploiting opportunities for natural daylight and ventilation. Active House 2 in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke exceeds the superior energy performance of its predecessor, claiming the designation of the first certified Active House in the world as well as achieving LEED Silver certification. 

An open-plan, double-height configuration in both houses achieves a sense of volumetric expansiveness, encouraging the flow of light, air and circulation. Rendered in a clean Modernist aesthetic and material palette, the formal expression of Active House 1 and 2 ushers in a new paradigm for suburban development while raising the bar for sustainable home design that operates on 100% renewable source energy. [2]

The Great Gulf Active House is designed for human comfort and well-being from the inside-out — the clean aesthetic of its modernist architectural expression merely provides the foundation for maximum human comfort with the goal of reducing maintenance and operating costs. 

The architects reinterpreted some of the existing design guidelines for Great Gulf’s Rolling Meadows community in Thorold and applied them to the Great Gulf Active House. Using the design guidelines of a traditional gabled roof design and adapting them for the Active House yielded a streamlined multi-functional roof design that provided a basis for double-height spaces and opportunities for the home’s many skylight applications. [3]


Wood WORKS! Design Award 2014
Builder’s Choice & Custom Home Design Awards, Honorable Mention 2016
Wood WORKS! Environmental Building Award 2017 


[1]   “Superkül Designs First Certified Active House in the World.” Canadian Architect, June 27, 2016. https://www.canadianarchitect.com/superkul-active-house/.

[2]    “Active Houses.” Superkul. Accessed June 9, 2021. https://superkul.ca/projects/all/active-houses/.

[3]     “Great Gulf Active House.” Active House. Accessed June 9, 2021. https://www.activehouse.info/cases/great-gulf-active-house/.

Additional Information

“The Great Gulf Active House.” H+ME Technology. Accessed June 9, 2021. http://www.hometechnology.com/the-great-gulf-active-house/.

Rust, Cathy. “The Active House Philosophy – A New Building Standard From Europe.” BEC Green, October 9, 2019. https://becgreen.ca/the-active-house-philosophy-a-new-building-standard-from-denmark/.

Valenzuela, Karen. “Great Gulf Active House / Superkül Inc.” ArchDaily. ArchDaily, May 12, 2014. https://www.archdaily.com/503066/great-gulf-active-house-superkul-inc.

Project Title: Great Gulf Active House 1
Artists: superkül
Place: Thorold, ON

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