Living Building Challenge

We're building one of the greenest homes on earth.

The Confluence - a living building in southern Alberta

“The Confluence” — a living building in southern Alberta

SAIT’s Green Building Technologies (GBT), Woodpecker European Timber Framing and an Alberta family have partnered to construct a one-of-a-kind home in the foothills of southern Alberta — one that produces more energy than it uses, captures water on site and creates a positive impact on its people and environment.

Together, they hope “The Confluence” will achieve the highest possible certification through the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most rigorous green building rating program and sustainable design framework. They're aiming for the home to be the fifth in the world — and the first of its kind — to do it.

Explore the home

Explore the 2,238 square-foot, three-level home nestled in the foothills of Alberta, Canada, just west of the town of Cochrane.

Living building challenge kitchen
The colours, textures and patterns of interior wood, stone and glass blend to create a modern yet homey feel throughout the kitchen and living room.
Living building challenge bathroom
The upstairs washroom, designed around a salvaged vanity, combines soft colours and textures which juxtapose nicely against the black window frame and picture-perfect view.
Living building challenge bathtub
A quiet and calming retreat. The sand tiling commands a comforting, peaceful presence similar to ocean waves on a beach or the nearby riverside.
Living building challenge bedroom
Two massive windows, with views over the forest canopy to the distant Rocky Mountains, flood the master bedroom with daylight.
Featuring a custom, oversized fir front door, the tile and wood foyer provides a warm welcome to family and friends.
Featuring a custom, oversized fir front door, the tile and wood foyer provides a warm welcome to family and friends.
The mechanical room is the brain for all of the systems, ensuring the innovative technologies are functioning efficiently and effectively.
The mechanical room is the brain for all of the systems, ensuring the innovative technologies are functioning efficiently and effectively.
The peaked window and timber truss are biophilic design elements that emulate mountain tops, and the dark solar panels fuse seamlessly with the black metal roof.
The peaked window and timber truss are biophilic design elements that emulate mountain tops, and the dark solar panels fuse seamlessly with the black metal roof.
The exterior is designed to harmonize with the natural environment with the use of green ‘Secret Path’ stucco and rustic fir timbers.
The exterior is designed to harmonize with the natural environment with the use of green ‘Secret Path’ stucco and rustic fir timbers.
The covered veranda creates an inviting and protective gathering space, constructed with locally-sourced lumber and custom-milled timbers.
The covered veranda creates an inviting and protective gathering space, constructed with locally-sourced lumber and custom-milled timbers.
Exterior light fixtures and their mounting locations were chosen to minimize light pollution and keep the skies dark in the remote area.
Exterior light fixtures and their mounting locations were chosen to minimize light pollution and keep the skies dark in the remote area.

Confluence (kän-ˌflü-ən(t)s):

a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point.

"The Confluence" represents a confluence of natural and built environments, the Rocky Mountains and the prairies, new and salvaged materials, and human and environmental health — to name a few.

Living building challenge house

The house that green tech built

To achieve the gold standard in sustainability goes beyond installing solar panels and low-flush toilets. GBT and the Centre for Innovative Information Technology Solutions — both divisions of SAIT’s Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) department — are applying emerging green technologies that could change the way we build homes.

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What is the Living Building Challenge?

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is the world’s highest standard for building green, administered by the International Living Future Institute headquartered in Seattle, Washington. To achieve full certification, projects must adhere to seven areas of sustainability. After construction, projects must be monitored for 12 months to prove sustainable performance — a requirement setting it apart from other green rating systems.

Meet the project team

Man and woman looking at each other

Homeowners

Gerton and Joleen Molenaar wanted to build a home that not only sheltered their family but helped inspire a greener world. They learned about the Living Building Challenge and approached SAIT and Woodpecker European Timber Framing to enlist the expertise needed to execute the complex challenge.

Group photo of people with birdhouses

SAIT Green Building Technologies

A division of SAIT's Applied Research and Innovation Services, GBT has worked with industry partners to develop green technology, programs, systems and services since 2008.

  • Research Manager, Melanie Ross
  • Principal Investigator, Tracey Chala
  • Project Coordinator, Hayley Puppato
  • Systems Design and Engineering, Rob Avis
  • Dashboard and Data Analysis, Tyler Willson
  • Architectural Technologist, Alexandra Kodyra

Group photo of people sitting on house stairs

Woodpecker European Timber Framing

Based in Canmore, Alberta, Woodpecker is a full-service design manufacturer that offers innovative and experienced timber framing.

  • Owner Peter Graul (pictured above)
  • Site Superintendent, Alex Philippo
  • Site Superintendent, Dale Klassen

815

"red-listed" toxic chemicals to avoid when building

90%+

of construction waste diverted from landfills

48+

salvaged or reclaimed products installed

105%

renewable energy produced on site

Special thanks

SAIT is grateful for the funding support of this project from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, Alberta Innovates, Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) Canada, United Nations Association of Canada and Clean Foundation. Thank you to NorSask Forest Products LP for your generous in-kind donation.

The Molenaar’s old house
2017 | The Molenaar’s old house and garage were sold for just $1 and relocated to a nearby lot to divert materials from the landfill.
People working with concrete forms
2018 | The insulated concrete forms used for the foundation were not only Red List compliant but also produced locally — another LBC requirement.
The view from the master bedroom, overlooking thick forestry and the Rocky Mountains.
2019 | The view from the master bedroom, overlooking thick forestry and the Rocky Mountains.
House in construction
2020 | South-facing windows, high-performance wall panels and energy generated from 35 solar panels will keep “The Confluence” warm in -40°C winters.
Birds nest
2020 | The Molenaars aren’t the only family enjoying “The Confluence” — local birds made their own home on one of the exterior beams.
Classroom of people
2020 | The team met to explore biophilic design — a deliberate integration of nature into the home’s architecture, interior design, landscaping and united relationships.
Student testing soil
2020 | For her capstone, an Environmental Technology student completed an environmental site assessment and conducted soil sampling to measure nutrients and check for contamination.
Pile of drywall
2020 | The Molenaars make a trip to recycle drywall.
Reclaimed hardwood flooring
2020 | Hardwood flooring was salvaged from the rafters of a Vancouver warehouse used to store baking essentials for the military in World War II.
Garden stairs
2020 | The planter beds in the walkout from the basement will be used to grow edible plants as part of the urban agriculture plan
Wood with sap on it
2020 | “The Confluence” is full of special surprises you’d find in nature, like this bit of sap dripping from the beams.
River running through forest
"The Confluence" is nestled in the serene foothills of southern Alberta, near the Ghost River.
Three indigenous people in traditional headwear
2021 | NorSask Forest Products LP, owned by the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, donated a lift of Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber. Donations like this helped complete “The Confluence.”

Build what’s next

Being a solution provider with industry is part of SAIT’s 104-year history. Whatever your organization’s vision, we’d love to help you get there. Connect with our team in Applied Research and Innovation Services. Project inquiries can be directed to gbt@sait.ca

Learn more on "The Confluence" project website.

SAIT logo  The Confluence logo  Woodpecker European Timber Framing logo

GBT building

Green Building Technologies

Our centre focuses on identifying and developing environmentally friendly technologies, processes, programs, systems, and services that will fundamentally change how we build, educate and develop skilled labour.

Learn more about our centre

Contact us

Applied Research and Innovation Services
403.284.7056 applied.research@sait.ca