The Solar Cottage was originally built more than 25 years ago to demonstrate a highly insulated, off-grid building. It was used as a classroom and for educational programing related to energy sustainability and conservation. The original design was based on the original R-2000 concepts, consisting of R22 walls, R12 slab perimeter, R32 roof and double glazed windows. The building utilizes passive solar design, and was heated by a wood burning stove. The cottage was connected to a 155 watt PV system and a 400 watt wind turbine. The planned refurbishment will focus on a high performance, durable building envelope suitable for Northern climates.

The cottage now known as the Off-Grid Learning Centre, was transformed into a new living laboratory and became the first completed Innovation Park project in 2017.  It is used as a training facility and by academic research partners involved in advanced building design to answer building science questions regarding innovative, high performance, building envelopes.

Materials & Technologies


  • South elevation – fibreglass frame, double glazed argon filled with Low-E (Lof) coating
  • North, East, & West elevations – fibreglass frame, triple glazed argon filled with Low-E (272) coating


  • Interior – Stone wool batt insulation (rot and water resistant, made from natural and recycled materials)
  • Exterior – EPS rigid foam insulation


There are currently two design strategies evolving in high performance buildings. One is increasing the mass inside of a home to aid in thermal storage and the other is low thermal mass (Passive House) to aid in time-of-use heating strategies. The refurbishment of the Off Grid Learning Centre will allow for both scenarios to be investigated within the context of a single high performance building envelope.

Objectives for the refurbishment included:

  • Addressing high moisture loading due to high occupancy levels and poor ventilation
  • Installation of low energy consumption, high thermal performance, air tempering, ventilation system
  • Employing passive solar design to reduce the demand on the conventional heating system
  • Utilizing durable and low maintenance materials
  • Simple and efficient design that is easily replicable , optimizes the use of materials to reduce costs and construction waste, and utilizes readily available or transportable materials
  • Investigating the impact of thermal mass in a residential building.