Cities

The Now House™ Project: The Return of a Canadian Icon


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Last fall I was in Toronto visiting friends. During my stay, I had an opportunity to drop in and see a company located on Queen Street called Work Worth Doing.

A friend of mine had recently completed an internship with Work Worth Doing (WWD) and had been telling me about some of their current projects and the goals of the company.

The principals, Lorraine Gautier and Alex Quinto, both had successful careers before deciding take a break to study at George Brown’s Institute Without Boundaries (IwB). They were there in 2005, and were a part of the team working in conjunction with Bruce Mau that brought us MASSIVE CHANGE.

After they completed their program at the IwB, Lorraine and Alex decided to leave their previous careers and move in a different direction. Together they founded WWD, dedicated to creating positive environmental and social change. In fact, they have adopted the United Nation’s eight Millenium Development Goals as their own, and all the projects they have taken on been in line with one or more of these.

Back when the CMHC announced the EQuilibrium Sustainable Housing Initiative, WWD decided to enter the competition, but with an unusual approach. Rather than taking sustainable technology and methods, designing a new dwelling, building a model, and then hoping to replicate it as across the country, they did almost the exact opposite. WWD looked at Canada to find a proven and widely replicated dwelling, thought about how that style of dwelling could be made more sustainable, and then researched currently available sustainable technologies to see how they could make it a reality.

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Enter the wartime house.

Built approximately sixty years ago, wartime houses were produced in mass across Canada and the United States. You can find them in almost all communities across the country—or at least in those that existed in the later forties and fifties. There are, in a modest estimate, at least a million of them across the continent. WWD decided that these wartime houses would work well for their project. They adopted the wartime house as their target house, and called their initiative the Now House™ project.

When the contractors and volunteers are finished later this month, the Now House™ will be a near zero energy home. This means that it will produce as much energy as it consumes—or something very close to it. Once this is complete, WWD will digest all their information and publish their work for everyone to access and use.

Simply put, WWD has no intention of renovating a million houses themselves. In fact they are only going to be involved in the first one. But once complete, all their methods, products, suppliers, and findings are going to be made available, so that those methods can spread.

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It may seem a little improbable at first glance, however what has started with one house in Toronto has already started to spread. The residents all around the project have been keenly interested and even involved in a number of capacities. There is even talk that the small Toronto community may be the first zero net-energy neighbourhood in the country.








Photo Credits

Front Page Photo: Work Worth Doing
Inside Photos: Work Worth Doing

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