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Green architecture – Cliff House, Muskoka Lakes, Ontario

By Damir Beciri
One Comment16 May 2010

cliff-house-1Set on a rock formation overlooking a spectacular lake, the Cliff House integrates building elements with the beautiful natural assets of the site and terrain. Located at Muskoka Lakes, Ontario, the cottage offers private areas with calming views of the surrounding nature. Designed by Altius Architecture Inc, it is completely off-grid and it has various sustainable features.

The dwelling emerges from 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 which have a great view of the surrounding nature. Finely crafted materials, including hand-hewn stonework, wood ceilings, and structural board-formed concrete walls were built mostly from renewable and recyclable materials and finishes.

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Since living lightly on the site was important to the owners, the architects had a challenge to make various sustainable solutions for the cottage. The building features a passive gain and solar mass strategy that takes advantage of the sun’s daily passage and the movement of air in different seasons.

In summer, solar shading limits heat gain while operable windows are orientated to take advantage of natural ventilation. Operable windows in the vertical circulation space are used to create a stack effect to vent hot, stale air above and draw cool, fresh air in below. The whole system ensured the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) which is enhanced by usage of non-toxic materials and finishes.

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Green roofs mediate temperatures and control runoff while connecting the building foreground with the distant landscape. In order to lessen the usage of water, the cottage has water conserving appliances and fixtures as low flow faucets and dual flush toilets.

Optimized glazing and solar orientation combined with the thermal mass of concrete slabs and stone walls form the basis of the heating system. A high performance envelope and super-insulated glass work to limit unfavorable heat loss and gains all year-round. These passive strategies reduce energy loads and augment comfort so that the demands on active systems are minimized.

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Two contra-flow masonry heaters (ultra clean burning) 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. Electrical loads have been carefully managed and are minimized through the use of energy efficient appliances and LED and compact fluorescent lighting.

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One comment — Leave your response!

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    These types of homes are absolutely the best and easiest to clean! I love these homes. There are only a few of these types in San Diego, of which I am lucky enough to clean the windows on. So easy. The homeowners tell me their electricity bill is next to nothing!

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