Architectural Feature

An off-the-grid House in Huron County Ontario

After such a positive response from my Passive House post last week, I’m excited to share one of my favourite sustainable projects here in Ontario.

This off-the-grid home by Moffitt Studio is an innovative project in the most ironic way. The home is completely off-the-grid, and it does so by making use of elementary and passive designs, versus technology integration. It’s admired interior and exterior design is founded in the principle of immersing one in their surrounding landscape versus isolating them from it.

The success of the project is rooted in the intimate design-build process with the designer and the construction crew which were all from a close knit group of family and friends.

Prior to construction, Moffitt spent 3 years familiarizing herself with the land, and subsequently moved on-site to facilitate the construction of the project. Her intimate knowledge of the land without a doubt lent itself to the successful development of the home.

In studio Moffitts’ own words:

 

The house offers back to the cultural landscape in which it sits. The architectural language of the exterior, a monolithic galvanised steel shed, is informed by the local agricultural vernacular to ensure visual coherence within the landscape and to facilitate construction with locally available and sourced materials. As a design-build project, construction was completed largely by local farmers familiar with agricultural building practices.The rich dialogue with local craftsman ensured that the house is rooted in the building practices and conventions of context while also offering the community exposure to innovative resource and energy-conserving construction practices.

The interior of the 925 sf house is composed of a core of service spaces floating within the shed shell. Carefully calibrated views into and through this core ensure that, despite its limited footprint, the house is visually expansive. This experiential choreography, along with careful siting, with crops growing to enclosure, allow the house to act as a place of observation, a space that defers to and reflects back the annually and diurnally shifting landscape beyond. Creating a dialogue with and respect for the local culture and landscape encourages a sense of stewardship towards the larger ecological and environmental processes of the vast agricultural landscape in which the house sits.

 

Beyond the obviously thoughtful positioning of the home, the structure itself boasts impressive sustainable building practices.

Primarily, the house is designed and oriented based on passive principles. At a fundamental level the house is tailored to utilize the sun for heating and cooling. The south deck of the house has a large overhang to block the summer sun, keeping the house cool, but lets in the winter sun to heat the concrete thermal mass floor. Thoughtfully and evenly placed operable windows allow for cross ventilation in the summer, and being triple glazed, they also reduce thermal bridging to keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And finally, a 1.4kW solar array provides all the electricity required.

Despite a 925 square foot floor-plate, expansive windows and a double height ceiling engage the space to feel much larger than it physically is. This efficient design paired with passive thermal strategies actually make this house more comfortable and livable than some of the most technologically engaged homes.

Moffitt’s design embodies the value of working with our environment to develop beautiful spaces and the highest level of thermal comfort versus enlisting technology to shield from our environment.This project’s process is rooted in simplicity, elegance, and engagement, and the result is a product that elevates both our quality of living and our surrounding environment.

 

Hannah Chan SmythComment