Dunham Residence

Project Data

Location : Dunham, QC
Client : Naomi Pearl & Ron Silverman
Area : 2100 sq. ft.
General contractor : Emile Sadaka (project manager)
Structural engineer : Jan Vrana
Completed in : June 2000
Prizes and mentions : Mention, OAQ Award for Excellence , 1996

East of Montréal, the municipality of Dunham is a landscape of numerous orchards and vinyards that enjoys a moderate micro-climate, unique in the province of Québec. In 1998 L’OEUF was approached to design a house for a newly married couple wishing to leave the city behind for an organic life in the countryside. Due to the rural siting of the proposed house, the couple expressed a desire to live in a self-sufficient and energy conscious house. The program was to include an office, a play room and communal space in a fluid organization of living spaces. In response to these requirements, the house was sited at the top of a small inclined ridge facing a pond and oriented with the North-South axis. Though the volume is compact (to respect the construction budget), it is nevertheless carefully crafted to open to its surroundings. From the road, screened by the trees, one’s first impression of the house is of three parallel sloped roofs set against dense woods. The massing of the house is composed of three volumes clad in stained marine plywood and vertical cedar siding. The first, the ‘sleeping bear’, gathers the work, sleep, washing and kitchen spaces and faces the woods to the East. The second, a double height living space, faces south and connects the interior with the exterior. The third volume, for entry and vertical circulation, acts as a connector between the two other blocks. In section, the gentle slope of the site is followed by the stepped ground floor and is reflected in the roofs. Everywhere possible, ecologically sound materials such as wheat-board for the ceilings, laminated wood panels for the floors and cabinets, were chosen and, as a result, the construction is almost entirely VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) free. The palette of materials and details contains varied senses of wood, representing a harmony between aesthetic, technical, and environmental principles. For example, the roofs were covered with straw bales, compost and a thin layer of soil that not only allowed the growth of vegetation but also created a thermal mass that stabilises the interior temperature equally well in summer as in winter. In fact, the manner in which the roofs function is similar to an inverted roof where the insulation is located on the exterior of the membrane. In new construction, the costs for proper ecological design are minimal, and the benefits as far as ventilation, water issues, building health, waste management, reuse and recycling are demonstrated by this project. L’OEUF tries to combine environmental factors into the building designs, and has succedded in demonstrating in the present case the cost-effectiveness and the environnemental benefits of waste management, reuse and recycling. With straw bale and compost, that mass sitting on the roof could keep the house warm in the winter, cooler in the summer. The costs are minimal in new construction when properly designed and for the planet’s sake, retention of water issues, air conditionnning, it certainly makes sense.