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LYALL’S FILES: Healthy homes design chat in Denmark gets ideas flowing for RESCON team
May 21st, 2015 9:13 pm     A+ | a-
Richard Lyall / RESCON

It was an intense tour through Copenhagen’s incredibly innovative new communities today capped with an eye-opening presentation on Active House Alliance.

If you follow the residential construction industry, you may have heard about Active House in November after the initiative in Toronto by Great Gulf Homes (a RESCON member and one of the founding companies of Active House) won the Wood WORKS! award for best residential wood design. This is an all-important subject for us as we continue our fact-finding mission on mid-rise wood-frame construction in the Danish capital after four fascinating days in Stockholm, Sweden.

Great Gulf Homes' award-winning Active House Canada project (now sold).

Posing at Danish Industries in Copenhagen are from left: Great Gulf's Tad Putyra, RESCON president Richard Lyall, Torben Pretzmann of Altiflex, Steen Lindby of Rockwool, Agnieszka Szwarczewska of Velux, RESCON vice-president Andrew Pariser and Esben Oster of A/S Hai Horsens.

The global initiative was founded in 2010 in Brussels. Five years later in Copenhagen, our team of GTA home builders and RESCON staff took in a presentation promoting the concept of Active House by Velux, a Danish company which specializes in roof windows and skylights and one of about 20 founding companies of the global initiative.

Velux has been involved in 21 Active House projects in 12 countries, including one in Toronto (now sold).

So what is Active House?

“It’s a vision of buildings that create healthier and more comfortable lives for their occupants without impacting negatively on the climate – moving society towards a cleaner, healthier and safer world,” says Velux literature.


There are three aspects to this vision: comfort, environment and energy. An Active House project creates healthier and cleaner indoor conditions emphasizing daylight, fresh air and materials with a neutral impact on comfort and indoor climate. All of its energy is supplied by renewable sources integrated in the building or from a nearby energy system and electric grid. Lastly, it has a positive impact on the environment through its life cycle. And the goal is to bring this philosophy to the mass market.

The award-winning Active House Canada home, for example, had natural ventilation for cooling and air quality, 14 skylights to allow daylight into the home, solar thermal collectors and renewable gas as renewable energy sources, a well-insulated house envelope to save energy loss, and was put together through pre-fabricated construction to save on the carbon footprint.

(There is already talk of a second Active House Canada home in Etobicoke.)

This vision is more important now that about 90 per cent of our time is spent indoors, according to Velux. A Danish study says that children’s ability to learn improves by 15 per cent when they’re in a good indoor climate. That stat got a lot of our members talking.

More information on the Alliance is available at

Architect Agnieszka Szwarczewska of Velux says they were proud to be involved in the Active House Canada project. “We shared our vision and Great Gulf liked it very much. There were a lot of challenges in Canada. Buildings are placed very close to each other and in terms of construction techniques and insulation, the size of the buildings is significantly bigger than what we’re used to in Europe.


“You can imagine there are a lot of certification programs that mostly focus on energy efficiency and environmental impact, forgetting a little about the human factor – what’s most important about living in a house – and that’s comfort.”

Tad Putyra, president and COO of low-rise of Great Gulf Homes, says that it was an easy decision to get involved with the Alliance.

“I picked up a magazine at Munich airport and saw the president of Velux Canada on the cover … he’s a friend of mine so I called him up. Within a day, we were talking about it.”

Putyra and Great Gulf were among more than 20 companies that helped found the global Active House Alliance in 2010. He says it made sense to form the group then, and it makes sense now.

“Everybody is talking about sustainability. It’s not going away. They introduced health and well being to the home. Because at the end of the day, you have to sustain the homeowner. You have to make sure it’s attractive and they understand what’s behind it.”

Sounds like we need to hear more about Active House in the GTA.

More to come in this space tomorrow … hell, check it out next week too. There aren’t enough hours in the day to publish everything we’re learning on this trip.


Richard Lyall has represented the residential building industry in Ontario since 1991 in his capacity as the President of RESCON, the President of the Metropolitan Toronto Apartment Builders Association and as the Executive Director of the Toronto Residential Construction Labour Bureau. Lyall is also a frequent speaker and writer on issues related to the construction industry. 

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