An Energy-Plus Home Fuses With a Boulder-Strewn Landscape

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By Lucy Wang
This LEED Gold-certified home captures the genius locus of a rocky plot in Québec.

Sustainability was a top priority when a family of four tapped Alain Carle Architecte for the design of their new home in the lake-studded landscape of Wentworth-Nord, Québec. 

Not only did the Montreal–based firm deliver on all of the environmental targets—including LEED Gold certification—with La Héronnière, but they also captured the beautiful spirit of the landscape by seamlessly integrating three existing boulders.

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The architects have installed ample glazing along the south facade, particularly on the lower level, to take advantage of solar gain in the winter. The concrete floors also help retain heat.

The architects have installed ample glazing along the south facade, particularly on the lower level, to take advantage of solar gain in the winter. The concrete floors also help retain heat.

Rather than excavate the rock outcroppings and level the challengingly steep site, the architects have opted for a more site-sensitive approach.

The horizontal plane that rests atop concrete load-bearing walls has been extended to protect the interior from solar gain and provide shelter to the outdoor living areas.

The horizontal plane that rests atop concrete load-bearing walls has been extended to protect the interior from solar gain and provide shelter to the outdoor living areas.

"In response to the spatial quality generated by this diagonal, we installed a horizontal plane in the landscape," explains the firm. 

"It was generated from the three mysteriously identical geodesic points located at the top of three boulders present on the site." 

A diagram of how the horizontal plane sits atop the three boulders.

A diagram of how the horizontal plane sits atop the three boulders.

Balanced above the three rocks, the structural platform is supported by concrete load-bearing walls that match the color of the boulders. The concrete walls and floors also take advantage of thermal mass.

"Below the horizontal plane, it was decided to reorganize the site in order to design a plateau that would become the outdoor living plane," says the firm. "The blasting residues were compacted and refused on the site to create the project’s new ground: a disturbed surface rather than one extracted from the territory."

"Below the horizontal plane, it was decided to reorganize the site in order to design a plateau that would become the outdoor living plane," says the firm. "The blasting residues were compacted and refused on the site to create the project’s new ground: a disturbed surface rather than one extracted from the territory."

A biomass heating system fed with granules of recycled softwood lumber cutoffs powers the radiant floors, propelled-air furnace, and creates hot water inside. 

Photovoltaic panels have been installed on the sloped, south-facing volume.

Photovoltaic panels have been installed on the sloped, south-facing volume.

The wood-fueled system and the rooftop solar array generate enough energy to meet the 5,005-square-foot dwelling’s annual energy needs, while excess energy is sold back to the region’s power grid. 

The timber doors of a former garage have been repurposed into a room partition that separates the main living area from the rest of the ground floor.

The timber doors of a former garage have been repurposed into a room partition that separates the main living area from the rest of the ground floor.

The repurposed divider slides into place and helps trap heat generated from the wood-burning fireplace.

The repurposed divider slides into place and helps trap heat generated from the wood-burning fireplace.

"Environmental requirements were non-negotiable: no magnetic field in the inhabited space, no wireless communication protocol, energy self-sufficiency, materials free of volatile organic compounds, recovery of project residues, electric car, etc.," continues the firm.

Casement windows let cooling breezes in from the west.

Casement windows let cooling breezes in from the west.

"Faced with all these good intentions and technical requirements, characteristic of the values of ‘Generation Y,’ we introduced just one more, which seemed to take precedence over these new media-promoter values: the value of the place, the existential quality related to the environment."

The upper volume is clad in stained black cedar, while the lower volume is built with concrete.

The upper volume is clad in stained black cedar, while the lower volume is built with concrete.

The pines to the west of the home provide protection from the wind.

The pines to the west of the home provide protection from the wind.

The home's form and position have been informed by the path of the sun.

The home's form and position have been informed by the path of the sun.

The concrete bearing walls are left exposed in the interior to tie the living spaces with the rock outcroppings.

The concrete bearing walls are left exposed in the interior to tie the living spaces with the rock outcroppings.

Separated by a level change, a small office can be found behind the living area.

Separated by a level change, a small office can be found behind the living area.

The kitchen and dining areas serve as the heart of the home and connect to a small greenhouse via stairs.

The kitchen and dining areas serve as the heart of the home and connect to a small greenhouse via stairs.

The ground floor on the north side of the home is partly buried into the earth for better energy conservation.

The ground floor on the north side of the home is partly buried into the earth for better energy conservation.

A floating staircase leads up to the bedrooms on the upper level.

A floating staircase leads up to the bedrooms on the upper level.

The spacious master bedroom boasts views of the forest through ribbon windows.

The spacious master bedroom boasts views of the forest through ribbon windows.

An axonometric diagram of the home's sustainable strategies.

An axonometric diagram of the home's sustainable strategies.

A section view of the home's sustainable features.

A section view of the home's sustainable features.

A look at the site plan.

A look at the site plan.

A diagram of the roof.

A diagram of the roof.

Here's the first-floor floor plan.

Here's the first-floor floor plan.

A look at the ground-floor floor plan.

A look at the ground-floor floor plan.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Alain Carle Architecte

Builder/General Contractor: EcoHabitations Boréales

Structural Engineer: Genibois

Lighting Design: Lambert & Fils

Cabinetry Design: BWA Ebenisterie