Theme V - 5.2

Design of new solar communities

Project Leader

  • C. Kennedy
  • C. Hachem-Vermette


There are examples of energy efficient or low carbon neighborhoods that have been constructed in the  past decade or longer. Amongst prominent examples in Europe are  Malmo’s port, Hammarby (Stockholm), Kronsberg (Hannover), and BedZED (London), as well as solar communities in Freiburg (Germany) and Nieuwland (Netherlands). In Canada, a variety of technological approaches have been taken; for example, Dock Side Green in Victoria has a biomass fuelled cogeneration system, while a neighborhood in Okotoks (Alberta) was developed using R2000 homes and a borehole thermal energy storage system. This project aims to go beyond these examples, in that it seeks to simultaneously optimize, efficiency in the building design, neighborhood design and energy system design. 

The objective of the project is to explore optimal or desirable layouts for new neighborhoods of high performance solar buildings. Through designing neighborhoods and simulating their energy use, the project will establish how factors such as density, building heights, building footprints and the heterogeneity in building types impact the potential to achieve net-zero energy communities. The project focuses on neighborhoods of new state-of-the-art solar buildings, both with and without community-scale district heating or cooling systems, such as thermal energy storage (project 3.3) or biomass cogeneration. Neighborhood energy consumption will be simulated for different locations in Canada, incorporating differences in climate. Findings from the study will help with the establishment of policy to support development of low carbon neighborhoods. 

The project builds upon previous work conducted by the researchers. Hachem et al. (2010) investigated the solar potential (for electricity generation, heat or daylight) for dwellings arranged in neighborhoods with straight and curved roads. The ratio of transmitted radiation relative to isolated buildings, ranged between 0.9 and 0.3 as the spacing between buildings was decreased from 20 m to 5 m. Stupka and Kennedy (2010) investigated how both energy demand and potential supply from photovoltaics varied for rows of detached houses and townhouses spaced between 18 and 38 m. O’Brien et al. (2010) studied  energy generation and demand, including transportation activities, for high, low and medium density  neighborhoods of solar buildings. Norman et al. (2006) compared life-cycle energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for high and low density residential developments (of conventional building types). Zizzo and Kennedy (2010) showed how neighborhoods mixed with large and small buildings with different time-of-day energy demands, working in conjunction with a district energy system, are more efficient than neighborhoods of homogenous building types. Nijjar et al. (2009) have studied the reduction in community GGHG emissions that can be achieved using biomass district heating systems. A wider review of the sustainable neighborhood literature is provided by Engel-Yan et al (2005). This Project, divided in three sub-projects, will involve the following elements: 

1. Study off design concepts for several residential and/or mixed-use neighborhoods of varying population density (with mixes of ground coverage and average building height), using solar design and energy efficiency principles. 

2. Incorporation of different community scale energy supply or storage systems into the designs, including, for example, district heating/cooling,, biomass cogeneration, thermal energy storage (Theme 3) or battery storage in electric vehicles (Theme 4). 

3. Evaluation of the overall net energy use and carbon footprints of the neighborhood designs using tools such ass ESPr. 

4. Analysis of social acceptance and economic life-cycle costing of the neighborhood designs ((buildings and infrastructure), including comparison to conventional design. 

5. Analysis of sensitivity of results to changes inn location (climate, GHGG intensity of electricity supply). 

6. The three sub-projects will be integrated through application to two or more case study sites. These will be the Okotoks II project, and a study site or sites in Ontario identified through partnership with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. The project is l inked to projects 3.3 and 4.3. 


  • 5.1a  Modelling of retrofit measures (CHREM)
  • 5.1b  Development strategies and approaches for  conversion of existing buildings into NZE
  • 5.1c  Study of strategies and approaches for  conversion of existing communities into NZE


Back to Theme V : Technology transfer, design tools and input to national policy