Northern Nomad Capstone Design Project

The rundown

The Northern Nomad Project is a net-zero energy tiny home designed and built by undergraduate students.

Students are exploring ways in which new and innovative technologies can be integrated into a sustainable building. Northern Nomad showcases a variety of smart home technologies and is being designed to optimize energy and water efficiency.

We are at a critical stage where the Northern Nomad will be tested and validated students. We are asking for your help to purchase an expansion to our battery system and a temperature and moisture monitoring system.

Your gift to the Northern Nomad will directly impact students by providing them with experiential learning opportunities and supporting sustainable building research at Carleton University. Our goal is to raise $10,000.


Since its conception a little over a year ago, ten students from engineering and architecture have been involved in all aspects including: design and construction, smart home automation, renewable energy system design, water collection and storage, multi-use spaces and monitoring.

The home must produce enough renewable energy on site to meet or even exceed its energy needs on an annual basis. This will be achieved using photovoltaic solar panels. Additionally, this ambitious project will explore the viability of an Ottawa home achieving net-zero water use by collecting enough water on site to meet the home’s water needs. Various methods of harvesting and purifying water are performed using an atmospheric water generator.

Unlike almost half of Canadian households, Northern Nomad does not use natural gas for heating. Heating is provided by a combination of renewable energy using solar panels and an air-source heat-pump. Heating requirements have been significantly reduced by ensuring that the home is well insulated and air-tight.

Since starting construction in July 2016, we have received media attention from the CBC, RogersTV, Vice Magazine and several trade magazines. We have documented the entire construction process and aim to build additional future tiny homes in the near future using lessons learn from the Northern Nomad.


The Canadian Building Industry alone is responsible for:

  • 35% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions
  • 33% of Canada’s energy consumption
  • 50% of Canada’s natural resources consumption
  • 35% of Canada’s waste going to landfill

Sustainable building practices can significantly reduce the impact that buildings have on the environment: reducing the use of energy and natural resources, as well as the limiting contribution to climate change.

Most existing research for sustainable technologies, such as solar panels, are performed in warmer climates. This project will push the boundaries of sustainable design in Ottawa which faces several unique climate challenges:

  • Extreme temperature variations
  • Snow and ice coverage
  • Seasonal variations in sun exposure

This research will demonstrate several new and innovative building technologies, and will test actual versus calculated performance to improve how sustainable technologies are implemented in Ottawa in the future.

An expansion to our battery system will allow for 5 days of grid autonomy while the monitoring system will allow us to collect data. Both pieces of equipment are critical elements in allowing us to test actual vs calculated performance of our design.


Designing and building Northern Nomad allows Carleton University engineering students to research how well different sustainable technologies work in the Ottawa climate. Students will gain valuable experience by applying and further developing their engineering skills to address a pressing, real-world issue.

This research will demonstrate several new and innovative building technologies appropriate for cold-climates. Ultimately, this project will help lower residential impacts on the environment. It will demonstrate how Ottawa homes can be built to take advantage of the best technologies available for our unique location.

The Northern Nomad will remain on Carleton campus and showcased to the public and will be used as a learning tool for present and future students.

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