Lux et Tepidus: Passive solar design eases a family’s transition from Arizona to Toronto

Posted on September 21, 2010

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Best Green Houses
Paul Raff Studio
By David Sokol,Via:greensource.construction.com Any family move is nervous-making. New schools, new commuting patterns, new social circles. One brood’s haul from Arizona to Forest Hill, the well-heeled neighborhood just north of downtown Toronto, also prompted anxiety over a certain kind of climate change. “The clients were wary of losing all the beautiful light qualities of the Arizona desert,” says Toronto-based architect Paul Raff, whose eponymous studio was hired to construct a new home for the foursome…

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

Raff sited the 3,500-square-foot residence exactly to the cardinal points and slightly back from a gently sloping bend in a north–south street. “The alignment, which allows for smarter solar energy design, doesn’t create a distinguishable shift to the geometry of the street,” Raff says.
 

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

Nor does the massing of the building—in which a small volume stacking a living room over a garage hooks to the south of the main rectilinear volume, which is topped by a third-floor, almost-square master suite—conflict with the Georgians and Victorians of Forest Hill.

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

Its exterior is constructed of SIPs, while wood-stud partitions make up the interior partitions.

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

The main volume of the “Cascade House” runs along an east-west axis, and generous glazing on the south-facing elevation maximizes daylight entering the house.

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

Further assuaging any homeowner regrets about the change of latitude, that sunshine strikes a solid masonry wall enveloped in slate, which anchors the southern side of the interior and supports a stairwell.

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

The thermal mass from that wall, plus additional warmth from polished concrete floors with radiant in-floor heating, moderates nighttime temperatures.

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

Cascade House’s main and living-room volumes wrap around a swimming pool. And although the slate cladding the exterior does not create an Arizona-like microclimate for swimmers, the semi-courtyard does offer some protection from wind. 

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

Automated shades and passive ventilation, plus Paul Raff Studio’s decision to maintain the site’s older deciduous trees, cool house and outdoor play areas during summer months.

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

The design’s aesthetic warmth complements the material palette. Tongue-and-groove bamboo flooring cover the second and third floors.

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

Bamboo-veneer millwork is found throughout Cascade House, and the slate interior wall is punctuated by minaret-style openings.

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

Notably, too, 475 panels of 19-millimeter stacked glass set in a crenellated pattern sits in front of the living room’s east-facing streetfront window, supported on a cantilevered steel structure.

 

Image © Ben Rahn/A Frame

Besides ranking as one of Cascade House’s most stunning features, the composition welcomes even more daylight into the house without sacrificing privacy—and evokes the textures of cornices and lintels of neighboring historic homes.

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