Eco-Friendly Cascade House | Paul Raff Studio

• June 16, 2009

01 cascade view from street ben rahn paul raff studio plusmood 550x433 Eco Friendly Cascade House | Paul Raff Studio
04 cascade garden evening view ben rahn paul raff studio plusmood 550x429 Eco Friendly Cascade House | Paul Raff Studio

The multi-Award winning Cascade House by Canada-based architect firm Paul Raff Studio, is an eco-friendly house equipped with solar design systems.

We always start from first principles of human scale and flow, and in search of opportunities to engage light and landscape, once we began to work with glass and slate, the house became characterized by a powerful material presence that is activated as these materials come alive in response to natural light.

Architect Paul Raff

+ Project description courtesy of Paul Raff Studio

Situated in Toronto’s Forest Hill, an area characterized by its conservative decorum, the Cascade House disarms. At the apex of a curved street, it presents itself as a sculpture of stacked boxes composed from shards of glass and muted black slate. Commissioned by a family that was relocating from Arizona, the house was designed in response to the clients’ love of modern art and their desire for natural light.


03 cascade pool ben rahn paul raff studio plusmood 550x693 Eco Friendly Cascade House | Paul Raff Studio

The two-and-a-half storey house is configured in an “L” shape around an outdoor swimming pool, oriented precisely on axis with the compass. Maximizing on solar potential, this orientation takes advantage of the low winter sun through large expanses of south-facing glazing. The living room, dining room and a powder room can be closed off from the kitchen and family room at the rear of the house, allowing for the parents to entertain while their children play. The children’s rooms and a home office are on the second floor, topped by a master suite in a pavilion on the roof which is set back from the street to ensure privacy while opening up to the treetops.

02 cascade living room steve tsai paul raff studio plusmood 550x367 Eco Friendly Cascade House | Paul Raff Studio

Glass and slate are employed as thematic materials to create sculptural walls and to play with sunshine.

We always start from first principles of human scale and flow, and in search of opportunities to engage light and landscape, once we began to work with glass and slate, the house became characterized by a powerful material presence that is activated as these materials come alive in response to natural light.

Architect Paul Raff

The most dramatic design strategy is a 13-foot tall screen of 475 vertically stacked sheets of heavy, jagged-cut glass canted slightly away from the sidewalk, shimmering in emerald green against a backdrop of dark slate tiles. The screen was conceived to maximize sunlight in the living room while also providing privacy from the street. Reminiscent of the cascade of a waterfall, it draws connections to the adjacent pool, imparts texture and movement into the room and imbues it with the quality of an art installation.

06 cascade staicase steve tsai paul raff studio plusmood 492x800 Eco Friendly Cascade House | Paul Raff Studio

A compliment to the translucent wall is a freestanding monolithic wall of dark slate that acts as a central spine. Framing the feature staircase, it rises from the lower level of the house to the top floor, creating a unified visual connection throughout the house. Random apertures provide niches for child play and display, and also dapple the transference of light. The pattern of slate is designed with varying rough and polished surfaces to further play upon the intricacies of natural light. The slate wall has an environmental as well as an aesthetic function; as a thermal wall, it absorbs the sun’s energy during the day, and slowly disperses heat overnight.

Lined in cream canvas curtains, the compact master suite provides a gentle counterpoint to the bold gestures and spatial arrangements on the ground floor. The artistic theme is continued with a custom-designed bed as an independent sculptural element.

Simple yet materially rich, Cascade House evokes a casual sophistication with every detail functioning as part of the overall artistic vision and aesthetic. The client commissioned a family home and gained a work of art.

Sustainable Design

Cascade House combines a high-performance building envelope with “passive solar” design as the most effective environmentally-responsible strategy for its northern climate. The house is oriented on a strict North-South-East-West axis to facilitate precisely-designed relationships with sun angles. Computer energy modeling was used to optimize performance. The sun naturally heats the house in winter through expansive south-facing windows, and its energy is captured in the massive stone wall which keeps the house warm at night. Automated shades and passive ventilation keep the house cool in the summer months.

03 cascade anno 550x259 Eco Friendly Cascade House | Paul Raff Studio
Diagram courtesy of Paul Raff Studio

The efficiency and compactness of the design saved considerable resources in the house’s initial construction and in its ongoing use of energy.

1. The stone wall absorbs the winter sun and acts as a thermal heat sink to keep the house warm at night.
2. Triple-layer argon-filled high performance glazing.
3. High performance building envelope, including structurally insulated panel system (R36, roof R44).
4. Designed and wired for future hydronic solar panels to heat the pool and the house.
5. Ultra-high efficiency boiler and radiant in-floor heating.
6. Designed and wired for future roof-mounted photovoltaic solar panels that generate electricity.
7. Height of space allows for passive cooling in summer.
8. Automated shading to reduce summer heat gain.
9. Non-toxic, renewable materials such as bamboo and wheatboard millwork, as well as low V.O.C. paint throughout.
10. Storm water managed on site with soak pits.
11. Existing vegetation and mature trees maintained.

+ Project credits / data

Project: Cascade House
Location: Toronto, Canada
Size: 3,500 square feet (325 square meters)
Completion: October 2008
Project team: Paul Raff, Samantha Scroggie, Rick Galazowski, Scott Barker, Jennifer Ujimoto, Gillian Lazanik, Jean-Philipe Finkelstein, Adam Thom, Jane Son
Architecture: Paul Raff Studio
Interior design: Paul Raff Studio
Landscape: Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc.
Structural engineers: Neumann Associates Ltd.
Mechanical designers: Elite HVAC Design
General contractor: T Fijalkowski and Associates
Planters: Spot Home Inc.
Photographer: Ben Rahn, Steve Tsai

+ Plan, Elevation & Section
+ All images and drawings courtesy of Paul Raff Studio | Photo by Ben Rahn, Steve Tsai

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Category: Architecture, House, Selected

Comments (2)

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  1. Stephen says:

    Impressive integration to landscape.