Sustainable laneway home put to work as living laboratory and evolving technology research space
SFU West House, an eco-friendly, state-of-the-art sustainable laneway home, is part of HCTSL (Human Centred Technologies for Sustainable Living), one of 34 projects within the GRAND research network.
Posted by GRAND NCE, March 9, 2011

Ura, Kellogg and Mike

SFU West House's first residents Ura Jones and Mike Higgins with GRAND scientific director Kellogg Booth (centre) 

Typically, we are all tasked with a long list of household chores. Wouldn’t it be gratifying to turn the tables and put your house to work? That’s the model GRAND researchers and SFU professors, Lyn Bartram and Rob Woodbury are employing regarding their brainchild, SFU West House.

SFU West House is an eco-friendly, state-of-the-art sustainable laneway home that will serve as a living laboratory and evolving technology research space.  Located in the Commercial Drive area, next to a community garden and around the corner from a SkyTrain Station, SFU West House will be given a thorough once-over in terms of sustainability, livability and user-friendliness.


Photo Credit: G. Battiston 

Staged at LiveCity Yaletown during the Olympics, the home was visited by thousands of people interested in the showpiece. Following the international event, the house was literally rebuilt at its current location.View timelapse video of build

Local Vancouverites, Ura Jones and Mike Higgins have the honour of being the first tenants. For the next year, they will report on what it is like to live in a 610 square feet, one bedroom laneway home. The bright and airy loft-style residence is kitted out with the latest green technologies including solar panels, bi-directional meters and an in-home computer system called ALIS (pronounced like the name Alice). 

Is the home as energy efficient as envisioned? What’s the water pressure like? Are there enough cupboards and closets? How well will ALIS engage and enable the couple to maintain zero energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions? These and many other questions will be explored in the coming year. 

ALIS is of particular interest to GRAND, whose researchers Bartram and Woodbury, their team at SFU along with industry suppliers VerTech Solutions and Embedded Automation, developed the multi-faceted system.  

Through ALIS’ in-home touch screens, Ura and Mike will control their home’s lighting, heating and appliances. They will also test the system's browser-based, remote capability when using their mobile phones. 

Built-in, real-time feedback and personal milestone apps allow Ura and Mike to review their energy consumption goals and make necessary adjustments in order for them to hit their targets. 

Another tool is the kitchen backsplash; one unlike any you’ve ever seen before. It is a dynamic art element that visually displays water, electricity and gas use. As consumption increases, the design glows brighter.

Ultimately, the purpose of this living experiment is to assess the efficacy of the tools specifically designed to actively engage people to use fewer resources more efficiently. Results will be documented, collected and analyzed. The invaluable, ‘real-life’ feedback will inform and influence sustainable housing product offerings currently available in the marketplace and those in the research pipeline. 

SFU West House is part of HCTSL (Human Centred Technologies for Sustainable Living), one of 34 projects within the GRAND research network. 

A well-attended Open House was held on March 8 to celebrate the launch. City of Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson joined Simon Fraser University president Andrew Petter and Lisa Coltart, executive director Power Smart, B.C. Hydro in congratulating the SFU West House team for turning an ambitious idea into reality. View photos of the event

West House was made possible thanks to: Simon Fraser University, City of Vancouver, Western Economic Diversification Canada, BC Hydro Power Smart, Smallworks Studio and Laneway Housing, Embedded Automation, VerTech Solutions, Pulse Energy, FortisBC (Terasen Gas), GRAND NCE, MITACS Accelerate BC, MSR Innovations, Schneider Electric, Day4 Energy, Rainforest Automation, Laura Vroom Design, Live Simply Design, Inform Interiors, Durante Kreuk Ltd., Moscone Bros. Landscaping, Yardworks Supply Ltd.and Surrey Cedar. 

Now, the spotlight returns to the sustainable laneway home. Though house cleaning will remain a chore, thanks to SFU West House, keeping a green house may become easier than ever.   


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