As you move around this green abode, called +House, you witness dramatic moments of spectacular views that coalesce effortlessly with the charm and elegance of its uncomplicated interiors.
The township of Mulmur is a hidden gem of Dufferin County, Ontario, Canada. Straddling the famous Niagara escarpment this house enjoys unparalleled vistas.
Architect Andre D’Elia of Superkul Architects points out, “Our clients wanted a healthy house – one that first and foremost was sensitive towards the environment and secondly was also a beautiful space to live in. Therefore to our clients and to us the most important dialogue with the environment started with an understanding that the most beautiful space could also be a potentially worst space if it was not a healthy space. The two had to be one!”
The 2,150 sq ft four season house consists of no drywall – something very unusual for a Canadian house. Sited in a valley facing the banks of a stream fed pond, the explicit lines of the building accentuate its profile while also contradicting with and highlighting the vegetation behind and the angular perpendiculars of the slope. As some of the best buildings have always shown a concern for the environment, +House is no exception either.
Andre explains, “The expanse of a 14 feet high glazing along the south facade responds to and allows for an interaction with the environment but there are also several other features that are hidden or not evident enough which contribute towards the dialogue with its environment.” As Andre elaborates further, “The house is designed to breathe and the walls help to regulate the humidity naturally using a clay product that never fully dries.”
A green roof assists in absorbing heat and acts as insulation, thereby reducing energy consumption. Lift and slide doors provide access to a full length deck, integrating all indoor spaces with the outdoors during the warm months, making them joyously liveable. Lightweight and porous Cedar boards plunge from the ceiling to the exterior soffit relieving noise pollution and adding to the insulation quotient of the house.
Bedrooms located on opposite ends of the rectangular plan help in extending the limits of the house into comfortable, cosy and inviting rooms. The open kitchen and the large room situated in the heart of the building, collect ample light. +House’s precise profile and eminently functional spaces belie a wealth of complex health and ecologically sensitive technologies hidden beneath.
Each material and finish was vetted by the architects and then tested by the client to ensure zero adverse physical reaction. Durisol blocks or ICFs (Insulated Concrete Formwork) made from concrete and recycled wood producing no VOCs have been used throughout the building. These are also fire and soundproof and energy efficient as they help reduce thermal mass.
The interior walls are finished with a natural clay plaster that is a self finishing breathable product requiring no paint. The concrete floors that connect with the Cedar deck unfolding outside serve as a counterpoint to the tall ceilings.
A soy based sealer was used on the concrete floors and counters. Soy proved a sensible alternative to regular petroleum based sealants as it is a renewable product and helps in reducing the carbon footprint. Untreated silk and hemp that are popular biodegradable and organic substitutes were used in the form of curtains along with a PVC free blackout roller shade fabric that is mildew resistant.
Hospital grade Hepa filters were suspended in the duct systems to help purify the air. An array of large quadrangular openings placed throughout the external skin of the building called for compelling attention to the beauty found in the otherwise straightforward explicit geometry. Heat mirror triple glazing, operable skylights facilitating passive ventilation, natural day lighting and a pond loop geothermal system are just a few more features of this LEED Gold-targeted project.
Andre tells us, “The house is the clients’ summer home in the country so they wanted it to be their oasis.” With a combination of local and natural materials and a line up of distinct design elements, the archly rectangular structure is a classic example of what modern architects are renowned for.
In fact, the green structure lives up to its tag by conserving natural resources and thus lowering the carbon footprint, protecting biodiversity, reducing operating costs, minimising strain on the local infrastructure and improving occupant health and comfort. Andre very aptly puts it – “The house was always conceived as the sum of its parts where every material, be it building skins, structure, mechanical and electrical systems, finishes and furnishings all had to come together as one voice that would sing a sweet healthy song.”
Text By Kanupriya Pachisia
Photographs Courtesy Shai Gil photography