Altius Architecture completes a new home for the indepentendly-minded
The Cliff House expresses a continuing desire to move forward towards an integrated, holistic and collaborative approach to building. Set on a rock formation overlooking a spectacular lake, the Cliff House seeks to enhance the extraordinary surroundings through the thoughtful integration of building elements with the natural assets of the site and terrain. The desire to live lightly on the site in order to celebrate the site’s natural beauty led to the design of an off-grid building so that the clients could reduce their environmental impact and be independent of external infrastructure in a net-zero energy building.
Sustainable design in this project is not divorced from the experiential qualities of the dwelling but enhances the unification of building and landscape for the pleasure of its owners. A site-specific approach to building orientation, form and materials make up the first line of defence to achieve an off grid residence. A passive gain and solar mass strategy that takes advantage of the sun’s daily passage through concrete floors that are exposed to sunlight in winter (via windows) and are protected in summer (via overhangs) and insulated from heat loss/gains through a high performance envelope year round.
Operable windows facilitate a passive ventilation strategy while the operable windows in the vertical circulation space are create a stack effect to vent hot, stale air above and draw cool, fresh air in below. Active systems are used to provide supplemental energy when the passive measures are pushed to the limit. An array of evacuated tube solar collectors is used to store supplies of solar energy used in the hydronic radiant floor heating and in the domestic hot water. A series of photovoltaic panels and battery bank provide the building with electricity. Electrical loads have been carefully managed and are minimised through the use of energy efficient appliances and LED compact fluorescent lighting.
The residence emerges from the cliff on a base crafted from local granite and establishes a relationship to form and materials derived from its surroundings to honour the spirit of the region. Local wood species such as Pine, Birch and Walnut are selected to celebrate the site’s uniqueness and to root the Cliff House into place. Cape Cod Pre-Finished Pine is used as the main cladding material to express the terrain’s ruggedness while the warm hue of Douglas Fir used for the soffits, window and door frames invites human interaction. Locally quarried granite reduces the carbon footprint to limit the energy intensive enterprise to transport heavy materials long distances. Finally, the finely crafted materials, including hand-hewn stonework, wood ceilings, and structural board-formed concrete walls, define and enrich the residence and commemorate the skilled contributions of all tradespeople involved.