Passive Narrow House
2 800 SF
Featured in: Canadian Builders Quarterly Magazine Jan. 2012, AIBC’s ‘Redefining the West Coast Spirit’ Exhibit Fall 2012, The Vancouver Sun August 2013, Vancouver’s Modern Home Tour Sept. 2013, Western Living Magazine Sept. 2013
True sustainability deals with the ‘three pillars of sustainability’, which include the environmental, but also the social and economical. The Passive Narrow House responds to each tenet with an understated elegance. This eco-conscious home is designed to take advantage of the earth’s never-ending capacity to heat, cool, and ventilate, while using materials and building systems which are durable and tread lightly on the environment. It is not certifiable as a ‘Passive House’, due to the envelope assemblies, but if see our other projects for Passive House examples. The Passive Narrow House boasts a green roof and three storey thermal mass wall. Social sustainability is incorporated by promoting a culture of minimalism, social awareness, and environmentalism. In a city like Vancouver, owning property is a daunting financial prospect for most, building a custom home is attainable only for a lucky few, and sustainability can become something that only the wealthy dare to add to their wish list. Passive Narrow House sets out to change this approach to single family housing with its environmental responsiveness and affordability.
The aesthetic is a purity of form. It expresses the concept of dwelling as a juxtaposition of shelter from the elements and warmth of home. The tough and durable exterior materials, including the off-white fibre-cement panels and the charcoal coloured horizontal ribbed cladding, have a cooling and calming effect. In contrast, warm vertical bands of clear stained cedar accent the front and rear elevations at the fenestration and doors as an inviting allusion to the family inside. The simple form includes two rectilinear masses, a larger one for bedrooms and living, and a smaller one containing service elements such as the stairs, washrooms, and mechanical rooms. The smaller mass is stepped back from the front and back elevations of the house to provide a sense of entrance. In addition, this allows the larger mass, which is located to the south, to have corner windows with improved views to the north-west mountains. The smaller volume is also the environmental heart of the home with a south facing glazed elevation above the green roof and full-height CMU block walls which feed the passive heating and cooling system within the house.
The clients are a young and visionary couple, pregnant with their first child, who wanted to do something different. A tight budget meant they needed the flexibility to maximize rental income with a secondary suite now, but also to accommodate a growing family down the road. Small bedrooms promote a tight-knit family by dedicating square footage to one large gathering space which includes the kitchen, dining, living, and a work station. There are no separate TV rooms, offices, or dens. The basement suite has two bedrooms, however one or both bedrooms can be re-assigned to the house, creating a studio apartment with a private sleeping space as needed.