A House on Ancaster Creek

By | 2019-10-29T08:08:53+00:00 October 23rd, 2019|

By Williamson Williamson

Ancaster Creek in Ontario, Canada is the site for an intergenerational home for a family and their elderly parents, creating a unique solution to the complex issue of ageing-in-place.

The house was built using various woods including laminated plywood. Image credit: Williamson Williamson

The house was built using various woods including laminated plywood. Image credit: Williamson Williamson

The project constructs a scenario for living that allows for autonomy while mutually benefitting from proximity. It confirms that sustainable systems and designing for the elderly are not exclusive from modern expression and exquisite details. As the family changes, so can the family home.

The house was conceived as two distinct residences, each formed into a linear bar containing the full programme of a home. The bars sit perpendicular to each other, creating a courtyard, and stack at the corner. The parent’s suite occupies the ground floor with the living space anchoring the view. The suite is laid out as a single floor accessible apartment with added features to accommodate the specific challenges facing the ageing parents. Among them, well-located drains and a master power switch mitigate issues that have come with memory loss: a sink left running, or an oven left on.

Running parallel to the creek is the main residence. The kitchen anchors the south end of the house. Set in a double height volume, the 20-foot-tall pyramidal ceiling creates an expansive space that opens to the creek, the courtyard, and above to the sky. Back painted glass and polished Calacatta slabs are meticulously detailed to reflect the surrounding landscape and contrast the heavy, flat-sawn solid oak island with a faceted base.

The dining room occupies a glazed link pinched between the landscape that flows from the creek, through to the front of the house. The living room extends out under a cantilever and in the summer months, doubles in size. The extended family shares these social spaces – a connected hallway with a softened corner draws the family together.

A spiral staircase connects the living room to the second-floor family room and library, creating a unique moment in the otherwise orthogonal space and celebrating the connection between floors. Structured with thin sheets of laminated plywood, the white oak railings become structural elements that eliminate the need for a steel frame. The curvature opens as it rises and becomes the ceiling of the adjacent wing, creating a pinwheeling effect that leads to the parents’ suite.

With sustainability at the forefront of the design process, the requirement of material durability and longevity was paramount. Careful detailing of local materials achieves this. The ground floor of the house is clad in 3-1/2” thick Algonquin limestone. The coursing is designed to highlight the compression and layering that forms this sedimentary rock. 12” tall stones at the top compress to 4” at the bottom. The horizontal joints are raked deep and the vertical joints are filled flush to emphasise the horizontality. Milled cedar clads the upper volumes of the house. A three-part finishing system extends the life of the wood and stretches the time required between maintenance work.

To reduce the ecological footprint, energy consumption was decreased through key moves. Primarily, two families are now living on a single-family lot, increasing density without increasing building area. Triple-pane windows anchor the highly insulated envelope. Radiant floor heating is used sparingly and only to compliment a high efficiency furnace. Finally, a 37 module 9.8kW solar array was installed across two of the flat roofs, offsetting energy consumption. Together, these systems create a home with a measured EUI of 94, exceeding the 2030 Challenge benchmark for the project’s permit year.