U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon | Powered by the Sun

Solar Decathlon 2013

Team Ontario: Queen's University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College

Team website: ontariosd.ca

Team Ontario entered the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 with ECHO, a functional and livable starter house that strikes a balance between engineering and architecture. The house generates more energy than it uses and sets a higher standard for the next generation of sustainable housing.

ECHO achieves its ultra-high efficiency by first minimizing heating and cooling requirements through a highly insulated, airtight envelope and controlled solar gains. It then efficiently conditions the interior space with an integrated mechanical system.

Design Philosophy

With a vision to change the way young prospective homeowners live and think, ECHO is designed to set a precedent that echoes into future generations. The highly efficient and sustainable design strikes a balance between tradition and innovation. It meets the needs of the current generation and ultimately aims to resonate through time.


  • Bright and spacious living spaces are flooded with natural light.
  • The modern interior is clad with local, reclaimed materials and up-cycled accessories, including hardwood flooring composed of reclaimed trees from urban developments and reclaimed furniture.
  • A multipurpose room evolves to serve as an office space or bedroom for one or two small children.
  • Easy-to-use building controls and reconfigurable furniture maximize convenience and comfort.
  • The roof channels rainwater into a water feature, where limestone rocks neutralize acidic precipitation.
  • A small kitchen herb garden adds to the natural aesthetic and connection to the environment.


  • A sloped exostructure holds the photovoltaic array and solar thermal systems and is designed to maximize the benefits of passive shading.
  • A unique wall structure, along with vacuum insulation panels, enables the house to withstand harsh Ontario weather with an insulating capacity more than twice that of a conventional home.
  • An integrated mechanical system provides space heating, cooling, dehumidification, and domestic hot water through a single system.
  • A predictive shading system uses daily weather forecasts from the Internet to run computer simulations and determine the optimal shading placement on southern glazing.
  • A mobile application allows occupants to control aspects of the house using a mobile device.

Market Strategy

Targeted to students and young professionals who intend to purchase a home in the next 10 years, ECHO represents an opportunity for "Echo Boomers," the children of Baby Boomers, to thrive in an environment celebrating technological innovation, freedom of expression, environmental advocacy, and health consciousness. ECHO is an affordable house, with minimal operational costs, catered to the new family.

What's Next

After the Solar Decathlon, Team Ontario plans to use ECHO as an educational tool to further inspire the public and support further research. The team will continue to monitor the house's performance to further validate the modeling simulations used during the design process.


Leia de Guzman
Phone: 613-533-6682

Photo of members of the Queen's University, Carleton  University, and Algonquin College Solar Decathlon 2013 team on the deck of  their partially constructed house. Several members are laughing and throwing  snowballs. Enlarge image

The Queen's University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College Solar Decathlon 2013 team (Courtesy of the Queen's University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College Solar Decathlon 2013 team)

The Queen's University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College audiovisual presentation

Neither the United States, nor the Department of Energy, nor the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC, nor any of their contractors, subcontractors, or their employees make any warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness for any purpose of any technical resources or data attached or otherwise presented here as reference material.