To design for an urban-based couple a small, "off-the-grid" cottage that minimizes its presence upon the land and its energy consumption.
The paradigmatic Canadian cottage is typically romanticized as a log cabin isolated within the wilderness. In reality, few cottages exist that are not equipped with driveways coming directly to their front doors, modern appliances, electrical service, telecommunications, and, if it exists at all, the "log" aspect is generally in the form of synthetic siding with an embossed grain. These "cottages" are usually merely down-sized versions of suburban homes, garnished with several superficial rustic adornments, deployed to help sustain the myth that by appearing to be "at one with the land," such homes and their owners will make less of an impact on the environment than the average suburban home. Conversely, Green House accepts that if there is still a Great Canadian Wilderness - someplace untouched by acid rain, ozone degradation, and where wildlife roams and propagates without human controls - It is certainly not a short drive from our urban centres. Green House aims to unravel the myth that such "wild" places truly exist and that the fictional log cabin is not what anyone really wants anyhow since it does not accord with a standard of comfort assumed to be necessary in our modern world. The intention to unravel these fictions is not one of cynicism, but rather responsible optimism: all organic environments have been, and mostly continue to be, degraded, but what remains can be enjoyed more responsibly, and perhaps through progressive example, improvements in those environments can be made. To this end, Green House is designed to perform in association with its landscape, rather than to merely appear to be in association with that landscape.
The fundamental design characteristics of Green House derive from objective, scientific principles that reduce its impact upon its site and resources. The appearance of Green House emerges from issues of performance within the limits of the given landscape, and, as such, its aesthetics simultaneously reject naïve interpretations of "fitting in" and "belonging to a landscape" that are based upon romanticized myths of existence in the "wilderness."
The primary architectural space of Green House, termed the "hard cottage" due to its steel and glass components, is a volume cantilevered from the high point of its very steep site. In this way, the cottage leaves undisturbed nearly all the existing trees and wildlife around and beneath it. The hard cottage is designed as a multi-purpose space, which allows for a far smaller degree of construction than, for example, a house designed with segregated rooms dedicated to discrete functions. This part of the cottage is comprised of components that are fabricated in a warehouse in the city, which are later assembled quickly on the site so as to avoid the conventional despoliation of the landscape due site clearing required for the maneuvering of large construction machinery. The lower portion of the cottage, termed the "soft cottage" or "cocoon" due to its largely fabric construction (comparable to that of tents), includes two stacked guest bedrooms and one guest bathroom that in effect are balconies suspended in the treetops. These rooms are connected to the hard cottage (above) and the lake (below) by a steel stair. Since the isolated and steep location of the cottage makes vehicular access in wintertime impossible (snow-season access is gained solely by snow-shoeing), these guest rooms are not occupied in those months, and thus do not require a heat source. When the soft cottage is not occupied in winter months it becomes instrumental in heating the hard cottage: its glass "solar chimney" encapsulates the winter sun's warmth, producing a literal "green-house effect" whose warm air is then circulated by natural convection through an internal duct system to the living spaces above.
Green House employs a photo-voltaic network that is held above its planted roof. (A wind turbine at the site's peak was considered but rejected as an effort was made instead to reduce "required" power consumption rather than aim to accommodate it.) Composting toilets with remote processing tanks are also used. Waste water, largely the result of bathing, is processed through a grey-water filtration system, which then distributes the water to the planted roof above and the surrounding forest.