Northern Nomad Capstone Design Project

Northern Nomad Capstone Design Project

The Rundown

We are a group of five passionate engineering students with the goal of designing and building a sustainable tiny house built on a trailer: The Northern Nomad.

Our goal is to push the limits of sustainable building design in Ottawa. We will be exploring ways in which new and innovative technologies can be integrated into a sustainable building. Our hope is to reduce the impact of green house gases on the built environment in response to climate change.

This project will strive to demonstrate that an Ottawa home with a small building footprint can achieve net-zero energy. This implies 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 rainwater will be explored.

Unlike almost half of Canadian households, Northern Nomad will not use natural gas for heating. Heating will be provided by a combination of renewable energy sources, including solar thermal panels which use the sun’s energy to heat air and water in the home. Heating requirements will be reduced by ensuring that the home is well insulated.

The Northern Nomad project will showcase a variety of smart home technologies and will be designed to optimize energy and water efficiency. This project will be designed with the goal of achieving the Living Building Challenge Petal Certification.

Northern Nomad will be built in May 2017 and will be showcased to the public on the Carleton University Campus.

The home will be rated using the EnerGuide rating system for new homes.

The Background

The Canadian Building Industry alone is responsible for [1]:

  • 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 completed in warmer climates. This project will push the boundaries of sustainable design in the unique Ottawa climate, which faces several 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.

The Rollout

We need your help bringing Northern Nomad to life!

The cost of building the Northern Nomad is high. The project is partially funded which guarantees its construction in May 2017., Additional funding is required in order demonstrate sustainable technologies used in the tiny house, as outlined below.

Tier 1 (Base Goal): $20,000

  • Photovoltaic solar energy system
  • Solar thermal energy system
  • Heat pump
  • Water collection system and storage tank

Tier 2: $30,000

  • Rain purification system
  • Multipurpose furniture

Tier 3: $40,000

  • Energy efficient and water efficient appliances
  • Interior finishes

We would greatly appreciate any financial support you can provide! As a thank you from the Northern Nomad team, your name will be displayed on a plaque in the house recognizing your charitable donation. Funds raised will go a long way in offsetting the costs of this project and promoting experiential learning and sustainable building research at Carleton University.

The Benefits

The Northern Nomad Project will be showcased to the public after its construction in May of 2017.

Designing and building Northern Nomad will allow Carleton University engineering students to research how well different sustainable technologies work in the Ottawa climate. This will allow us, and future students, to gain invaluable experience by applying and further developing our 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 its unique location.

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Other Comments

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The Team

Samantha Champagne, Kailey De Silva, Paige Waldock, Carter Shieck, Sandra Lunn, Professor Scott Bucking

Engineering Capstone Design Project Team

We are a group of five passionate Carleton engineering students working to push the limits of sustainable design in a northern climate.


Sarah Biber

Neil Cruickshank

yvan labiche

Shannon Bucking

Francis M Edgell

Donald Waldock

"We create our buildings and then they create us. Likewise, we construct our circle of friends and our communities and then they construct us." ~ Frank Lloyd Wright Best of luck to Northern Nomads as you work together to design and build your sustainable house.

Chris Biber

A great initiative: a tiny house with net zero footprint. Engineering and ingenuity at its finest. Keep up the great work.

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