We exist in relationship to life in its many forms though many relationships are unseen. With the help of lifecycle impact research and principled design, we can attempt to generate positive outcomes.

Eco Healthy Homes Design

‘Deep green’  design emphasizes locally sourced, non-toxic, place appropriate, and passive technologies that work with natural forces instead of against them. The research and design approach for the demonstration home is inspired by natural building and permaculture and will be informed by the progressive standards listed below. The formal home development team will determine which, if any, certifications will be sought for the research and demonstration home.

Living Building Challenge (LBC)

The Living Building Challenge is the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard.It is endorsed by the Canadian and US Green Building Councils. The standard calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. All considerations are analyzed according to their impact over their full lifecycle – from raw material extraction to disposal.  To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements in seven performance areas over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. The areas include: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. These are subdivided into a total of twenty imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence.Full LBC certification requires that a building be Net Positive Energy or, produces more energy than it uses. Three minute video about LBC. The regional appropriate environmental ethics and biophilic design integrated in this standard are a great inspiration for Harmony Habitat. For more info and videos about LBC, see this page.

Passive House

Passiv Haus (PH) is a performance standard that originated in Germany and now have a North American and Canadian chapters. “The core focus of the standards is to dramatically reduce the requirement for space heating and cooling, while creating excellent indoor air quality and comfort levels”

Passive House building envelope science will help us create a high performance building that provides almost all of the home’s climate control. For mechanical ventilation we will integrate a small ductless Heat Recovery Ventilator and optional natural (passive) ventilation. For additional moisture control, the building envelop will be self drying and it will be foam free* (or as close as we can get to this) for optimal human and environmental health (For a series of articles, see foam.) The Eco Healthy Homes version of Passive House will attempt to model the super insulated home in its simplest, healthiest form with the minimum ecological impact possible. To further address health and environmental concerns, the standards below will augment the Passive House guidelines as will our Eco Healthy Homes criteria.

Cradle to Cradle

Cradle to Cradle is a beautiful example of an aspirational, research based certification program to encourage better manufacturing. Their criteria are very similar to the Eco Healthy Homes design ideals and they are fabulously summarized on this page.

The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five quality categories — material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.

Product assessments are performed by a qualified independent organizations. For recertification, every two years, manufacturers must regularly demonstrate good faith efforts to improve their products.

Learn more

Building Biology

Bau-Biologie® (Building Biology) building guidelines originated in Germany to help create healthy homes, schools, and workplaces. It includes the world’s most rigorous health considerations to support excellent air quality, mold resistance, the static energy of materials, and an unpolluted electromagnetic environment not addressed by any other standard. Building Biology will help us exceed the health criteria in Passive House or LBC. The links below provide further information:

Resilient Design

“Disaster losses have doubled every five to ten years since the 1950s, and in 2005 they approached $100 billion worldwide.” (Canadian Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction) With 2017’s record breaking disasters in Canada and the US, this figure will likely see a spike.

This project will engage the US Resilient Design Institute to assist us in developing design strategies that better prepare residents for the unexpected and adapt to change. Resilience is the ability for households, neighbourhoods or communities to endure and adapt to change and/or extreme weather events  Resilient design builds preparedness through risk reduction, manual back up systems, and durable and passive technologies.

At a minimum, it designs for, “passive survivability”, which is the ability of a building to support life in the aftermath of a disaster. Alex Wilson, founder of BuildingGreen and president of the Resilient Design Institute, describes it as, “how quickly many buildings become uninhabitable if the power goes out during a period of extreme cold or extreme heat” ref.  A building designed for passive survivability is safer, offers residents peace of mind and is likely to rely on simpler and more durable components that are more affordable to operate and repair. And most importantly, it can prevent losses related to emergencies or service interruptions. City planners participating in a Resilient Cities Summit, estimate that every dollar invested in enhanced resilience or disaster preparedness saves $4-5 in repairs.

Earthquakes – Protecting the Most Important Asset

According to Canadian Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction, “The National Building Code of Canada is designed to protect the lives of building occupants from a wide array of hazards, including an earthquake. From a seismic point of view, the Code aims to avoid structural collapse and the loss of life that may result from strong ground motion.” However, a code built home can still experience significant damage and many homes will be rendered uninhabitable in the case of a major earthquake.

It just makes good sense to reduce the risk of earthquake damage. According to the CICLR, “A home is the single largest asset most people possess [and loss of use costs can be tremendous].” “Simply building for life safety is not acceptable to many Canadians…. Loss of use and recovery costs can be exorbitant.”  The Canadian Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction Builder’s Guide explains the benefits of their Design for Safer Living program. The guidelines from this program will be considered in the design of the demonstration home.


The WELL standard addresses features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. It marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research. It does not address electromagnetic health nor mold resistance to the same degree as a German-trained Building Biologist would so Harmony Habitat will involve our partner Building Biologist to enhance the design in these ways.

Additional Materials ‘Red Lists’

In addition to the Living Building Challenge, there are several other healthy/ecological building guidelines that Harmony Habitat will also consult and consider. They include:

Architectural Challenge 2030

Architecture 2030 is a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization. Mazria established it to challenge architects to reduce fossil fuel pollution by design on the buildings they build so that they are Net Zero Energy (or fuel neutral) by the year 2030. Innovative sustainable design strategies, on-site renewable power generation and/or purchasing (20% maximum) renewable energy will be essential to meeting these targets. (Challenge 2030)

Leading professional and non profit organizations such as the American Institute of Architecture, the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada, the US Green Building Council and many others are endorsing 2030. It has been included into various legislation and building codes and overwhelmingly adopted by the architectural community, including 73% of the top 30 architecture and engineering firms.  41% of US architectural firms have signed on.

Net Zero Carbon Building Standard

This is a new (2017) standard, administrated by the Canadian Green Building Council. It addresses the full embodied energy of the materials and home, including peak demand considerations to help reduce stress on the grid at peak times.

Other lifecycle health and environmental priorities

For a chart showing a full range of lifecycle impact priorities, please see the chart linked to below. To view, click below then click on the chart title when the new page opens:  Lifecycle Impacts Priorities Chart

If you wish to read about some of the more common types of lifecycle impacts inherent in common building materials, Harmony Habitat’s Construction Impacts Chart may be of interest.

Lifecycle impact assessment

The Eco Healthy Homes Project will assess lifecycle impacts in the following areas to design for increased benefits and decreased harm:

Humanitarian- occupational

manufacturing and construction related health downstream and upstream, and landfill volume and toxic leaching (hazardous materials, waste, water and air pollution)

Humanitarian – homeowner

home health, energy and water insecurity
(chemical off gassing, risk of moldy air, ability to meet life needs)

Environmental – soil/air/water

raw material sourcing and manufacturing/construction impacts
(air/water/soil pollution/resource depletion, landfill waste)

Environmental – climate

raw material sourcing, manufacture, transport, energy use, durability
(embodied energy and energy efficiency over time including impacts of premature disposal/replacement)

Economic – communities

local and manufacturing communities
(local jobs and ethical wages vs imported pre-manufactured product, full cost/benefit/value analysis)

Economic – householder

repair costs, energy/water efficiency, durability and mold, impacts of extreme weather damage or outages
(affordability over decades and losses from service interruptions, full cost/benefit/value analysis)

All lifecycle stages:

All of the above should be considered in the context of seven lifecycle stages:

raw material sourcing – manufacture – transport – construction – maintenance – use – end of life