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Architectural science students design affordable, super-efficient home
to be built in Denver, Colorado

Ryerson team is only Canadian team selected to participate in the Denver Super-efficient Housing Challenge

January 28, 2014

Artist's rendering of the Harvest Home
Artist's rendering of the Harvest Home, designed by a team of Ryerson architecture and building science students. The home will be built in Denver, Colorado beginning in April 2014.

Imagine a super-efficient, comfortable home powered by solar energy. Now imagine it’s affordable. Can’t?
Don’t worry – Ryerson architecture and building science students have got you covered.

Enter the Harvest Home. Designed by a team of Ryerson students in response to Denver, Colorado’s Super-efficient Housing Challenge, the Harvest Home boasts a 90 per cent reduction in annual energy consumption of the average Colorado residence. What’s more, through the use of an entirely electrical HVAC system, the home has the potential to become almost entirely autonomous, functioning with minimal use of city services.

“The idea of the Harvest Home was to design a highly insulated building that can exploit natural solar energy to create a comfortable and pleasant home that would be appropriate for a developer home,” says faculty supervisor Mark Gorgolewski. “We wanted to be able to harvest the natural resources made possible by cycles of nature.”

 “Our integrated student team employed passive, contextually informed design approaches and carried out analysis of alternative technical strategies to significantly reduce energy demand and heating loads,” says team member Antonio Cunha.

The result was a 1,175 square foot, two-and-a-half storey, Net Zero Energy ready home that costs a modest $146 per square foot to build. Other features include glazing distribution and solar optimized pergolas to take advantage of abundant solar exposure and reduce over-heating, a ductless mini-split electric mechanical services system to be used for both heating and cooling, and the allowance for future installation of South-oriented photovoltaic panels, providing homeowners with the ability to further offset energy consumption through economically viable means.

The Ryerson team is the only Canadian team – and one of only five teams overall – that was selected by Rocky Mountain Institute and the Denver Housing Authority (DHA) in October 2013 to participate in the Super-efficient Housing Challenge. The students’ final designs were on display last week at the RedLine Gallery in Denver. Ryerson’s Harvest Home received the technical merit award, decided on by a panel of construction industry experts.

But the challenge is far from over. Unique to this competition, the students’ designs will actually be built and occupied, providing five Denver families with homes that are efficient, healthy and affordable. After construction and occupancy, the homes will be tested for energy efficiency and air quality to determine which design is the most efficient and healthiest for occupants. The DHA will also have the option to use these models for future buildings.

Ryerson’s team consists of graduate students Patrick Andres, Mathew Carlsson, Antonio Cunha, Mark Grimsrud, Denver Jeremyn, Mitchell May, Moe Otsubo, Matthew Suriano, Filip Tisler, Matthew Tokarik and German Vaisman, with faculty advisors Mark Gorgolewski, Paul Floerke, Miljana Horvat, Vincent Hui, Russell Richman and Vera Straka.

The Harvest Home – along with homes designed by teams from the Pennsylvania College of Technology, the University of Colorado Denver, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and the University of Utah – will be constructed at the Denver Sustainability Park in Colorado beginning in April 2014.