Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Heritage Meets High Efficiency: A Saltbox Passive House in Québec

Search

Heritage Meets High Efficiency: A Saltbox Passive House in Québec

June 13, 2022

It’s been at least a few centuries since the saltbox qualified as cutting edge. A familiar house style in New England and the Eastern Townships of Canada, the wooden structures, identifiable by their sloping roofs, typically have two stories in the front and one in the back; they take their name from the lidded wood containers of salt that used to hang near hearths to stay dry. When Francis Labrecque, lead architect at L’Abri in Montreal, was asked by a family of four to design their main residence on a mountainside in Québec, the commission came with two key stipulations: the owners wanted an eco-friendly, “high-performance house,” and construction rules in the area called for a “country style”—which is how the saltbox became a contender.

After two years of intensive research, the L’Abri team of four architects, in collaboration with sustainable building contractor Construction Rocket and several Passive House specialists, went ahead with an eye-opening plan: using primarily local hardware store materials, they built a 3,100 square-foot dwelling that has since received both Passive House and LEED Platinum certifications (translation: it meets a very long list of requirements for ultra-energy efficiency). And they made it in the guise of a modern salt box: “our strategy was to tell a story with the house without falling into fake old,” says Labrecque.

Photography by Raphaël Thibodeau, courtesy of L’Abri.

framed in double stud walls, the house is only the third in québec to rece 9
Above: Framed in double-stud walls, the house is only the third in Québec to receive Passive House certification from the PHIUS—learn about the specs, challenges, and ins and outs in Remodeling 101: A Passive House Primer. It’s located in Bromont, one of Québec’s Eastern Townships.

Like most saltboxes, it has a gabled roof in the main section and a pitched roof in the lower section, which contains a spacious, L-shaped living area with a garage and a workroom underneath.

  &#8\2\20;the construction on three levels is nestled into the mounta 10
Above:  “The construction on three levels is nestled into the mountain to minimize the visibility of the retaining walls,” says Labrecque. “By building the rear part of the ground floor at garden level, and by opting for a roof slope that mirrors the land, the house echoes the topography of the location while remaining discreet from the street.”

The roof is standing seam metal; the above-grade wall and roof are insulated with cellulose made from recycled paper and cardboard. The retaining walls are built from excavated stone and the driveway is lined with gravel.

beyond the energy targets, the team aimed to reduce the building&#8\2\17;s  11
Above: Beyond the energy targets, the team aimed to reduce the building’s carbon footprint by carefully choosing materials. The main siding is painted spruce from Maibec, and the entry is set off with a shou sugi ban section of burnt cedar. Large square windows frame the views.

The architects hope the house serves as an example for others to see that it’s possible to combine design and performance. “We are convinced that a building can be both aesthetic, in harmony with its environment, and extremely efficient,” they write. Here’s how they explain the Passive House standard: “The basic principles are simple: a highly insulated and very airtight envelope, superior heat recovery of the mechanical ventilation system, and a design that optimizes the orientation and sizing of openings to promote passive heating of the building. Contrary to popular belief, these buildings are not off the grid but their energy consumption and their dependence on utilities are drastically reduced. Achieving the performance criteria of a Passive House is only possible with the close collaboration of the architect, the consultants, and the builder, which is why we favored an integrated design approach from the start.”

kitchen and office mezzanine in the saltbox passive house, bromont. quebec, des 12
Above: The double-height kitchen at the center of the house has a mezzanine workspace fitted behind its top cabinets.

the kitchen has streamlined components, including black walnut detailing and a  13
Above: The kitchen has streamlined components, including black walnut detailing and a quartz counter.
a dining area with views. the american black walnut t\1\13 table and c\205 chai 14
Above: A dining area with views. The American black walnut T113 Table and C205 chairs are by Montreal-based Kastella. The Dome pendant lights are from Luminaire Authentik, which offers them in 45 colors
the house&#8\2\17;s passive house certified, triple glazed windows were sup 15
Above: The house’s Passive House-certified, triple-glazed windows were supplied by local manufacturer NZP Fenestration.
the floors are sanded concrete and have under floor heating. 16
Above: The floors are sanded concrete and have under-floor heating.
Above L: Floating steps lead upstairs. Above R: A closeup of the sanded concrete patterned with exposed aggregate.
the upstairs hall opens on the north side to the bedrooms, and on the south sid 19
Above: The upstairs hall opens on the north side to the bedrooms, and on the south side the mezzanine workspace, which has become the favorite place to do homework.
the windows, in accordance with passive house specs, have tilt and turn opening 20
Above: The windows, in accordance with Passive House specs, have tilt-and-turn openings for a seal as tight as airplane doors.
&#8\2\2\1; the house sits in a meadow on a \2.5 acre lot surrounded by wood 21
Above:” The house sits in a meadow on a 2.5-acre lot surrounded by woods. It faces south, the architects explain, “to favor passive solar heating and the panoramic views over the valley.” The back terrace is partially protected by pergolas that “serve as sunscreens and passively regulate the interior temperature of the house.”

Floor Plans

the l shaped ground floor has a large kitchen/dining area and a family media ro 22
Above: The L-shaped ground floor has a large kitchen/dining area and a family media room.
there are three bedrooms and two baths on the second floor, plus the mezzanine  23
Above: There are three bedrooms and two baths on the second floor, plus the mezzanine office.

Go to Écohabition to see a five-part video series on the design and building of L’Abri’s Saltbox Passive House.

More passive houses:

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0