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Resilient house for New York designed by Ontario Architect now under construction

By Dave LeBlanc, SustainableT.O.

In late October 2013 members of the Toronto firm, SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building, Paul Dowsett, principal, Nicholas Discenza and Andrew Stiffman toured a site struck by Hurricane Sandy in Far Rockaway. This site was selected for construction of the “Resilient House,” Sustainable.TO’s top prize entry in a competition launched by the American Institute of Architects and others, seeking sustainable housing designs for disaster areas in New York, New Orleans and Joplin Missouri.

Being built for the 6 members of the Lyons family, and situated on a narrow lot “Resilient House” had to be resized from the one story competition winning design, which was for a wider lot. The result is a compact, shotgun-style home, raised-on-columns to resist storm surges, yet with all the attributes of the original winning design.

The main floor of 935 square feet has, an open plan living, dining and kitchen area, master bedroom and bath room. The second story of 586 square feet has children’s bedrooms and bathroom. Paul Dowsett describes the design process for the sustainable and resilient aspects of the Lyons house as the 3 ½ step approach.

First, reduce the energy demand primarily through principles which align with those of the PassivHaus movement from Germany, such as:

  • optimized & simplified building footprint and volume;

  • well-insulated building envelope

  • an air-tight building envelope

  • light-colored exterior cladding materials

  • a well-ventilated interior through the use of Heat or Energy Recovery Ventilators.

Second, look to the opportunities presented by the site to save or provide energy through passive means, such as:

  • coniferous trees to the north and west to block winter winds, and deciduous trees to the south to provide summer shade

  • windows oriented to allow for optimal solar heat gain in winter, with shading for summer sun.

  • thermal mass within the house to capture & store heat in winter

  • windows, or ventilators, to allow for cooling breezes to reduce the cooling demand.

Third, look at opportunities to provide the remaining energy demand through active, renewable energy sources, such as:

  • solar thermal and photo-voltaic panels;

  • wind generators;

  •  ground source heat exchange

  •  air source heat exchange.

Lastly, when necessary” take the final 1/2 step, to provide the remaining minimal energy required through fossil fuels using the most efficient means possible, for the shortest amount of time possible. AIA Brooklyn will be arranging for a field trip to see the Lyons house under construction. Details to follow.

Source: Dave LeBlanc, Sustainable.TO, Pylon AIA Brooklyn. April 2014.