Cutting edge systems power a self-sufficient residence
Set on a rock formation overlooking a spectacular lake, the Cliff House by Altius Architecture Inc. seeks to enhance the extraordinary surroundings through the thoughtful integration of building elements with the natural assets of the site and terrain. The program called for intimate spaces carefully tuned to the unique views, light, and breezes of the site. Self-sufficiency was a key client mandate and the project is completely off-grid.
The dwelling emerges form the cliff and rests on a base crafted from local granite. A tall central void acts as an anchor that circulates movement, light and air into living spaces that pinwheel and extend into the landscape. Balancing the heavy mass of two interior fireplace cores; cantilevered volumes, flying roofs and floor-to-ceiling glass achieve a lightness of form and draw the lake into each interior space. Finely crafted materials, including hand-hewn stonework, wood ceilings, and structural board-formed concrete walls, define the residence and celebrate the skilled contributions of all tradespeople involved.
The architects were given a strong mandate for sustainability. The design achieves this aim by combining passive and active systems. Green roofs mediate temperatures and control runoff while connecting the building foreground with the distant landscape. Optimised glazing and solar orientation in conjunction with the thermal mass of structural elements forms the basis of the heating system. Two contra-flow masonry heaters in the fireplace cores take full advantage of abundant biomass available on site for supplemental heat. An array of evacuated tube solar collectors use the sun’s energy to heat water that circulates through 10 thermal storage tanks. This massive store of energy supplies hydronic radiant floor heating and provides domestic hot water. A series of photovoltaic panels and battery bank provide the building with electricity.