Living in harmony

Amy
Friday 25 Nov 2011

Thoughtful spatial planning and sustainable power systems create the perfectly balanced home

This home, for a family with several children, was intended to create a calm, relaxed and organised environment with plenty of space for family time, but which would also serve as a welcoming place for teenagers as they seek privacy with friends.

The design concept revolves around principles of spatial tension. First, there is the interpolation of solidity and transparency. Facing the street, the mass of the house is concentrated on the ground, with open spaces occupying a bar above. The house appears to be solid until one negotiates the turn into the property, which reveals the indoor-outdoor nature of the living areas through a dramatic 50-ft sliding glass door.

The house stands in a large flat lot. Upon entering, one can see through the entire space to the rear garden, the first clue of its strong connection to the outdoors. The environment is particularly suited to entertainment, as the sliding door enhances the harmonic relationship of the main room with the large exterior, allowing the owners to host many guests without the feeling of an overburdened space.

Scale manipulation plays a role in the architectural dynamics as well. From the back, the house appears to be a single-storey volume. The outdoor steps are also scaled to support this illusion. It is only when the steps are animated with people that one realizes the true scale of the house is two storeys.

The active systems in the home include a 12 kw solar photovoltaic panel system, the largest such residential system available on the market, hydronic radiant floor heating, blown-in cellulose insulation and a tankless water heater. The solar panels also provide shade from the sun, preventing the house from becoming overheated.

The family of six have been in the house for almost ten months without a power bill.

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