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

Solar Decathlon 2011

Canada: University of Calgary

TRTL – Technological Residence, Traditional Living

TRTL, Canada's entry for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, is a unique response to the culture of Treaty 7 Native Peoples in Southern Alberta. Inspired by the tipi, the house's rounded form, east-facing entrance, and south-facing windows relate to the sun as a traditional source of energy and life. The two-bedroom, open-concept design is flexible and includes ample space for storage, recreation, and communal gatherings for meals.

Design Philosophy

Canada's design integrates technology and tradition. From a technological perspective, green building materials and renewable energy technologies result in a house that is healthy, safe, durable, and affordable. From a traditional perspective, the design is guided by a holistic view of the home as a living part of a greater natural order. The result is TRTL (Technological Residence, Traditional Living), a house that respects the value of culture in promoting sustainability.


TRTL extends beyond its Treaty 7 partners to address issues faced by many native groups in Canada. Its features include:

  • Materials and color palettes that reflect customary art and the natural environment

  • Magnesium oxide-based structural insulated panels that are highly resistant to fire and mold

  • An 8.3-kW photovoltaic system engineered for high performance in Alberta's harsh winter climate.


Canada incorporates innovative technologies into its traditional house, including:

  • A highly effective air-to-water heat pump used for space conditioning and hot water production

  • A photovoltaic system that operates at 93% of its optimal efficiency and has a rounded form that responds to the cultural desires of the client

  • A sophisticated control system that allows for monitoring and long-term optimization.

Market Strategy

There are more than 600 native groups in Canada, totaling more than 1.1 million people. Housing failures within and beyond Treaty 7 include sub-standard design, implementation, and maintenance as well as demand that far exceeds supply. The collaborative design, validation, and cross-cultural dialogue employed in the creation of TRTL provide a model for affecting positive change.


Johann Kyser
Professional Faculties Building
University of Calgary
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
Phone: 403-617-2731

Photo of a group of people wearing matching black t-shirts and standing around a model of TRTL. Enlarge image

The members of Canada (courtesy of Canada).

Illustration of TRTL in a plains setting. Mountains are visible in the distance, and a silhouette family is on the front deck. Enlarge image

A computer-generated rendering of Canada's TRTL (courtesy of Canada).

A video walkthrough of Canada's Solar Decathlon house.

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