Dedicated to sustainable,
high performance building

House 46H

1905 Beach house reinvented as a light-filled energy efficient modern home

By Felix Leicher

Located on a leafy street in the Beaches area of Toronto, near shops, restaurants, schools and parks, this open concept home was specifically designed to minimize the carbon footprint of the building over its life cycle.

At the beginning of the project the decision was made to retain as much of the existing structure as possible in order to conserve the existing resources. The choice of materials and finishes was designed to reduce future maintenance as well as support other sustainability goals.

Consideration was also given to technical systems and spatial configurations that would support occupant wellbeing, be simple to maintain and economical to operate. These priorities led us to create a compact building with a low surface-to-volume ratio. We introduced lots of natural light and ventilation (using the stack effect) and specified durable, cool white metal roofing and siding, breathable membranes, continuous insulation, and heat recovery ventilation with air filtration. The house also incorporates smart technologies to control lighting, heating and cooling, and to monitor energy consumption.

Instead of increasing the existing footprint of the building and covering the vegetation in the backyard, we chose the more challenging option of adding a third storey to the existing structure. This left most of the backyard open as green space. The non-permeable surfaces in the yard were removed and replaced with permeable or semi-permeable surfaces and greenery to minimize runoff and reduce surface temperatures, thus reducing the heat island effect.

By respectfully exploring existing building structures, shapes and materials in the surrounding area, the design establishes a departure point for the exploration of a new aesthetic. The borders between roof and walls are blurred; this creates a sculptural structure of asymmetrical slanted and vertical planes that leaves the familiar perceptions of residential architecture behind, while at the same time maintaining a connection with its context.

All rooms have large operable windows to optimize daylight and provide multiple options for cross ventilation. Multiple skylights in the roof of this east-west -facing building brings in additional light from southern and northern exposures. This strategy bathes the third floor in light from all four directions, a feature that is rare on a tight, urban infill lot.

Each level has access to an exterior space, extending the living area to the outside and bringing the exterior inside. A programmable skylight above the stairwell provides natural light, but also offers the option of ventilation by the stack effect during cool nights in the shoulder seasons.

Felix Leicheris Creative Director and Owner of baukultur/ca [] Incorporated.

The west (front) elevation. Windows and sliding doors, all with fiberglass frames, supplied by Inline Fiberglass.