"The Most Resilient House in North America"

A case study by Alex Wilson of the Resilient Design Institute on Ecohome's Kenogami House in Northern Quebec

Resilient home construction - Kenogami House of the Year
Resilient home building - the Kenogami House © Alain Hamel

Ecohome's Kenogami House in northern Quebec was described by Alex Wilson of the Resilient Design Institute based in Brattleboro, Vermont, as "The most resilient house in North America." 

Among his many initiatives, Alex Wilson is an author and the founder of the Resilient Design Institute, Environmental Building News, Greenspec, and BuildingGreen. Here is a bit of what he had to say about the Kenogami House, the rest can be found on the RDI website along with a mountain of valuable building information.

Northern Quebec isn’t a place where one might expect to look for a model of resilience. It’s bone-chilling cold in the winter with 10,450 heating degree days per year (Fahrenheit degree-days, base 65°F); there isn’t all that much sunlight in the winter, and Quebec—let alone northern Quebec—isn’t the first place that comes to mind with cutting-edge building design.

But in Saguenay, located 130 miles north of Quebec City, Alain Hamel has created what just might be the most resilient home in North America. Perhaps there are more resilient homes somewhere, but for really cold climates, I think Alain has that boasting right locked up.

I met Alain through the online Resilient Design course I teach at Boston Architectural College—though it wasn’t clear to me why he was taking the course and not teaching it! Alain is a home builder who has been constructing LEED-certified homes in the Saguenay region for 7 years but was previously doing general construction in the Montreal region since 1985.

Interest in resilience driven by natural disasters

Alain had lived through two traumatic events in Quebec: first the Saguenay Flood of July 1996, which was Canada’s first billion-dollar natural disaster; and then the January 1998 ice storm that affected 5 million Canadians (17% of the country) and left more than a million without power for days or weeks and caused $2.5 billion in damages—breaking the natural disaster price tag record set by the flood two years earlier.

These two events affected Alain deeply, and when his house burned down in 2012 he set out to build a home that would keep his family safe no matter what nature threw at it. He sought the input of Ecohome and its Quebec counterpart, Ecohabitation, and together they set out to create a net-zero-energy home in this harsh climate. Along with engineer Denis Boyer, architect Lucie Langlois, and the director of Ecohome and Ecohabitation Emmanuel Cosgrove, they designed and built the Kenogami House, which is a model of both sustainability and resilience. Read More...