Team Ontario Constructs ECHO

Queen’s University, Carleton University and Algonquin College collaborated to build a 2013 Solar Decathlon home called ECHO.  The team from Canada tied for 1st place in the Hot Water and Energy Balance categories and secured 2nd place in Affordability


ECHO home is highly insulated.

ECHO was designed as a starter home through a collaboration of Queen’s University, Carleton University and Algonquin College.

Even with the rain and all the competitions that tested the home, ECHO generated more solar energy than it needed or used. The overall cost of the house with the energy systems and appliances included was $257,584.

The ECHO home was constructed with vacuum insulation panels (VIPs).  The panels don’t have air particles, so cuts down on heat transfer and has an R-value of 55.

The Solar Decathlon truly tests a home’s performance in different events. For example, in order to receive a score in the Entertainment competition, each team must host two dinner parties and screen an accompanying film. This tests the home’s general electrical systems and the combined efficiency of the appliances. They aren’t sitting around saving electricity and using candles. They’re watching films on large screen TVs, using the oven for stuffed peppers and beef roast, making multi-course meals and leaving the lights on. It’s all powered by the sun. Here are the Dinner Menus and Recipes from Team Ontario.

Photo Gallery

I toured the home in the early evening while it was open to the public. Click or tap on an image to see it in a larger format. Click or tap the right side of the image to view the next image.


  • 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.


Final Overall Score

The team finished in 6th place with a total of 926.478 points.

The team finished in 6th place with a total of 926.478 points.

A student explaining how their app interacts with the house.

A student explaining how their app interacts with the house.

All of the teams achieved a lot in the Solar Decathlon to design, build, finish, dismantle, transport, rebuild, compete in the competition and display the homes (with a smile, over and over and over again) to help educate the public. They all had amazing, sometimes arduous, yet highly educational and rewarding experiences. The final score is a summation of task completion, monitored performance of the homes and jury evaluations within 10 events.

Features and technologies sections from

Visit the team’s website:

Keya Lea

Keya Lea likes to spend time outside, enjoying the sun.

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