Dedicated to sustainable,
high performance building

Riptide House

Fresh take on traditional design provides high-level living comfort

By RHAD Architects

Just as a riptide in the ocean is a strong counterflow against a prevailing current, so Riptide House in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia represents a powerful oppositional force against the standard housing practices in Canadian cities. The clients, an East Coast surfing family, wanted a home that would fit in with their established urban neighbourhood, while simultaneously addressing the environmental issues faced by our society. 

As designers, our challenge was to respect the historic vernacular of the neighbourhood, while creating a contemporary house with superior energy performance based on passive design principles. The modernization of the deep-rooted wooden gable typology characteristic of homes on the Atlantic coast resulted in a modest 123 sq.m,, three-bedroom home with a potential secondary basement suite to encourage urban densification. 

The house replaces an older structure that was set back from its neighbours toward the rear of the north-facing lot. The new house is positioned to unify the streetscape, to increase the size of the south- facing rear yard and create a private courtyard for the family. 

The simple gable form was cut and slid apart, creating a primary volume containing the living and dining areas and kitchen on the main floor and bedrooms upstairs; with a secondary volume containing the laundry room, washroom and stairs. The traditional form was refined by tight eaves detailing and a clean, simple and durable palette of material, including V-groove cedar siding and corrugated aluminum. 

The shift in plan creates the opportunity for a covered front entry from the street and a mudroom entrance from the south-facing rear courtyard. The design is familiar enough to fit in, yet different enough to stand out. This difference creates an educational opportunity for members of the community interested in the energy saving strategies and other environmental features of the house. 

RHAD project team: Rayleen Hill, Megan Lloyd, Matthew Kijewski and Darren Fransen.

A combination of Kohltech fixed and operating triple-glazed casement windows, painted black exterior, are Passive House-certified for a perfect pairing of energy-efficiency and quality.


  • Owner/Developer  Jason Van Mee
  • Architect  RHAD Architects
  • General Contractor  Construction managed by Owner/Developer
  • Landscape Architect  UPLAND
  • Structural Engineer Andrea Doncaster Engineering
  • Energy Modelling  AmeriSpec
  • Photos  Julian Parkinson


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 125.41 KWhr/m²/year.
  • Total electricity demand = 15,426 kWh/year
  • Total floor area (not including basement) = 123m²
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB 1997 = 56%