Architects: Alain Carle Architecte
Location: Wentworth, Canada
Photography: Adrien Williams
From the architects: La Héronnière’s conceptual approach proposes an interpretation of the notion of recycling. The program was common: a young family with two children wanted to build a house representing their values, their desire to occupy a natural setting harmoniously and “symbiotically”, with the site perceived as “the host”. Environmental requirements were non-negotiable: no magnetic field in the inhabited space, no wireless communication protocol, energy self-sufficiency, materials free of volatile organic compounds, recovery of project residues, electric car, etc.
The family was concerned about introducing a notion of “action” into the residence’s program. Meal preparation became one of the rare “at home” activities, bringing movement and sociability.
Some aromatic plants are also kept in the greenhouse all year round
To the development of the eating space at the heart of the project, we adjoined a small greenhouse, in continuity with the big bay window on the southwest side, for conservation of seeds from outdoor crops during the fall to prepare for sowing during the winter. Some aromatic plants are also kept in the greenhouse all year round, with a drainage system developed to facilitate growing and maintenance.
During the summer, the site’s residual slope, facing due south, becomes the growing place that offers ideal drainage qualities. This “market garden” vocation of the residence therefore offers a self-sufficient, active living model, far from the lazy afternoons of the Baby Boomer generation.
On a parallel track, the residence “supplies itself” with recycled energy. The missed energy system, of some complexity, is designed to ensure the home operates in almost total self-sufficiency in terms of hydroelectric energy. Mainly fuelled by biomass, it also derives its energy from a system of photovoltaic panels. In fine summer weather, the system offers an energy surplus that will be rerouted to the region’s power distribution grid and accounted for in winter consumption credits.
The ground floor is heated mainly with a slow-burning fireplace
Ultimately, the home should achieve a zero consumption ratio when the economic agreements will be applied with the local distribution grid. To recycle the wood doors of a former garage, a removable fence was set up, separating the main living area from the ground floor, heated mainly with a slow-burning fireplace. This allows better preservation of heat on the ground floor during cold winter evenings, preventing heat from rising to the upper floor through the stairwell on the ground floor.
Not a stereotyped setting of the “ideal home” displaying wealth and power
As can be understood from the project’s statement of intent, this involved a shift of the usual interests: not a stereotyped setting of the “ideal home” displaying wealth and power, but an act of ideological demonstration through a specific occupation of the site. Is this a sign of a change of attitude or the ultimate sign of advanced capitalism?
However, the result of this conceptual approach turned out to be unique, even distinctive: We recognized the importance of the new ecological principles of a certain segment of the population, and the new social values related to these principles, which provide leverage and reflect the occupant’s desire for architectural distinction.
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