House in Four Fields

  • Wall and existing fence

  • Wood structure and breezeway

  • Envelope and green roof

  • Plan du rez-de-chaussée / Ground floor plan

  • Plan d'etage / Second floor plan

  • Plan du toit / Roof plan

  • Élévation est / East elevation

  • Élévation ouest / West elevation

  • Coupe d'espace double-hauteur / Section through double-height space

  • Energy gain/loss in kwh/year

    Energy gain/loss in kwh/year

  • Coupe du site / Site section

  • Site programming

    Site programming 1:5000

  • Riviere Rouge and four agricultural fields

  • Highest ground

  • View to Mont-Tremblant

  • Prevailing winds (annual average)

  • Solar exposure

  • Road and existing buildings

  • Noise from road and sawmill

  • Agricultural fences

  • Stone wall screens site from wind, noise, and afternoon sun

Project Data

Client : Stephen and Claudine Bronfman
Landscape architect : NIP Paysage
Structural engineer : Jan Vrana and Jean-Marc Weill
Mechanical/Electrical engineer : Pageau Morel et associés inc.
Interior design consultant : Adelson Design
Organic farming : Runaway Creek Farm
Project Manager/ Contractor : Omnia Technologies Inc.
'Passivehaus' consultant : Malcolm Isaacs
Lighting consultant : Lightemotion
Civil engineer : Marchand Houle et associés
Area : 3720 sq.ft.

The site is in the Rouge River valley, a gently undulating farmer’s field crossed by the meander of an ancient oxbow, structured by wire fences and surrounded by forest. The approach weaves through some aged agricultural and livestock buildings to the south and reveals a view of Mont Tremblant to the east.

Although the mandate was for a quiet house, it was also for an active landscape. The client’s program for includes an organic agriculture while respecting the site ecology

Iconic agricultural building forms dot the regional landscape: here the house has the tall, austere and reserved form of a slender gabled barn, perched east-west on the wall and against the fencerow, creating a sheltered terrace and outdoor summer kitchen. The reclaimed post-and-beam structure, aged and reclaimed exterior siding and quarried Mer de Champlain exterior stone are all ‘harvested’ locally.

From the very beginning the project imagined a sheltered courtyard to offset the harsh winters and strong winds – washed in sunlight, and protected from the wind by a wall of local stone. The wall is calibrated by a series of apertures which allow for views, thresholds, and the movement of air and light. The house itself rests lightly on this wall – a skeleton of reclaimed wood upon a stereotomic mass. The wall is the armature for the program, hosting a series of functions including a greenhouse, outdoor kitchen, covered living spaces, and the residence itself. The establishment of a breezeway along the south elevation sets up two circulation axes – one separating the courtyard from the entrance, and the other connecting a series of indoor/outdoor spaces including the orchard and gardens. The plan is simple and comfortable, and the elevations are punctured for views, passive solar gain, and access to the agrarian landscape. The envelope is a thick thermal blanket – balanced by a thin green roof which hovers above the massive stone wall. Although the house is designed to potentially attain “Canadian Passivehouse certification”, it directly responds to the client’s interest of balanced thermal comfort and simplified maintenance.

The house opens to the summer winds, ventilating at central skylights and end gables, and lending itself to passive night-time flushing. Autumn draws use intensely to the terrace and kitchen for canning and preserving, and to the garden shed and storage basement. With winter, family activities refocus on the house, with picture views across the fields to the mountains east and south from the main living spaces. Discontinuous inhabitation in the early years and during the winter challenged the project, and in response the house is super-insulated and opens to the south – it is passively heated and cooled.

The project design team was tightly integrated, and so the initial envelope strategy was modeled with a superior envelope and very high air tightness (0.5 AC/H at 50 pa), integrating passive solar gain strategies throughout with the annual specific heat energy demand being about 15 KWh/m2y. Internal wood post-and-beam structure and offset prefabricated wall and roof panels drastically limit thermal bridging, bringing related energy losses down by 6 KWh/m2y while providing high comfort when next to the exterior envelope. Evenly distributed thermal mass steadies the interior temperatures through the shoulder seasons.

The house revisits the regional building culture while benefitting from current technological advancements. A local palette of materials is interwoven with responsive, programmed components. It is this dialectic – between low and high-tech, between the simple, evocative form and the highly performant envelope – that breathes both a tension and a calm into the farmhouse.