Christie Beach House

The Blue Mountains, Ontario

Set on the south shore of Georgian Bay, the design of this residence sought to balance the structure and the surrounding landscape with minimal environmental impact, while accommodating the diverse needs of four generations of occupants. Assimilation with the site was achieved by setting the building low and shifting floor and roof planes so that it became embedded into the landscape.

As the elevations shift between the deck, loft, upper patio, green roof and floor levels, each space unfolds distinctly into the external environment. The elevation of the reflecting pool is also set specifically to blur the lines between building and landscape.

Material choice was also significant in addressing the issues of site responsiveness, sustainability and comfort in this 6,000 sq. ft. residence. The rich wood within the interior spaces casts a sense of warmth in winter, while the rich red cedar and cherry wood intensify the vibrant green of the surrounding forest in summer. The consistent palette of cedar soffits and ceiling cladding, window and door frames, transition effortlessly between the interior and exterior spaces.

The exterior ipe blends with the surrounding rock and soil, becoming a contemporary aesthetic that extends into the natural environment.

Flanked by hard edges on the east and west, the building maintains privacy while emphasizing the views to the inner courtyard. The organization of the building is broken down into zones, with the main floor divided between the public/living area and service, and two wings upstairs.

It was also important for the owner to reduce the energy footprint of their home as much as possible without compromising comfort. The first consideration was to optimize the building enclosure by means of correct sun shading, effective ventilation, and high insulation levels. This was achieved with insulating concrete forms (ICF) construction, sprayed polyurethane foam insulation, and as high-performance Heat Mirror glazing.

The building is naturally ventilated to minimize the energy footprint of the home. The continuous clerestory windows in the main pavilion offer daylight as well as a 360° view of the adjacent external environment. Its upward sloping roof facilitates natural stack-effect ventilation. Solar gains are controlled through expansive south-facing glazing with large overhangs and gypcrete floors acting as thermal mass (to absorb and store heat). Regionally sourced limestone was used to minimize transport-related carbon emissions.

Comprehensive, sustainable technologies and good building practices set this project apart from others in the Blue Mountain region. Its unique building form and function promise to provide a wonderful family retreat as well as a year-round dwelling for its owners.