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SABMag on high-performance housing: MAFCOHOUSE

Modernist, modular design comes to cottage country

Picture a mid 20th century Case Study house overlooking Los Angeles; the flat roof and glass walls, the refinement of form and Modernist ideals. Now transpose those forms and philosophies into the 21st Century amid the lakes and forests of the Canadian Shield in Haliburton, Ontario. MAFCOHOUSE is a contemporary building system that harks back to the architecture of Richard Neutra and Pierre Koenig but which also meets the environmental aspirations of today’s clients and building codes.

By Will Jones

Conceived by Dan and Diane Molenaar, the MAFCO concept was born in 2004 when an opportunity to reuse curtain wall glazing from a refurbished office tower in Toronto set the couple on a journey to build their own off-grid contemporary cottage on a bluff overlooking Drag Lake in Haliburton County.

“We designed a pavilion-like building around these glazed units,” says Dan Molenaar. “Their pivotal role in the design established the 16-foot [4.8m] structural grid and modular post and beam construction that has become the basis of all MAFCO houses.”

Today, MAFCOHOUSE has refined the design of its homes to take into account the most important criteria of environmental design. From the initial site visit and topographical survey, each house is designed to best suit its immediate surroundings and integrate with the unique characteristics of the site.

“The 16-foot [4.8m] module means that we can effectively juggle boxes to see how they will best fit into a site, with the least disruption,” says Molenaar. “Taking into account orientation to the sun, topography and required setbacks from water bodies, we design a one-or two-storey building that sits lightly within the landscape.”

This starting grid of industry-standard size ensures that materials are available off-the-shelf and used with the minimum of waste. The hard coat, triple-glazed walls, the inspiration for this house design, are typically 8-feet [2.4m] high and manufactured by Inline Fiberglass.

Design/Builder MAFCOHOUSE
Structural Engineer Blackwell
Mechanical Engineer Tomlinson Mechanical & Geothermal
Building Envelope Building Knowledge Canada and Building Science Consultants Inc

Will Jones is an architectural journalist based in Halliburton, Ontario.