- Our Town
A house that relates to the landscape and vice versa
When landscape designer Wynn Nielsen decided to build a custom-made home, she not only challenged her inner ideologies to create something distinctive and artistic, but took this opportunity to build a home that is environmentally sustainable. With an active imagination and her noted green thumb she set her sights on creating a 2400 square feet green home with an attached bed and breakfast all in one.
Nielsen decided to build her dream home high on the bluffs at Evergreen (a new development located on the west side of the island), with spectacular views overlooking the Georgia Strait, Keats and Pasley Island, where sunsets never disappoint.
Strict design guidelines were set by the developer to help protect the piece of land and Nielsen embraced this philosophy. Environmental awareness and sustainability are at the heart of Evergreen where design code requirements need to meet a Built Green Gold Standard. The standards for home builders include guidelines for energy saving, home sizes (no larger then 2500 square feet) and hydrology (in the form of cisterns or rainwater harvesting). Nielsen uses rainwater to service her entire home, the water gets treated with one of McTaggart’s water systems and is perfectly good to drink, she says.
In order to incorporate all the requirements of Evergreen and execute Nielsen’s vision, an architect, who was able and willing to “think outside the box” was needed. Nielsen hired James Tuer of JWT Architecture to collaborate with her on the project. Tuer is no stranger to achieving high BuiltGreen ratings in his residential design work. One of his Vancouver projects was just honored as the Premier BuiltGreen Home of the Year by the BC Built Green program (the same residence received an award by the Greater Vancouver Builder’s Association for its excellence in design and construction earlier this year).
Tuer was able to provide professional guidance while merging all the unique design elements cohesively. The house fits within the contours of the landscape – “its really important for me as a landscape artist for the house to relate to the landscape and vice versa,” says Nielsen. One of the elements, which truly sets this home apart visually is the curved roof. “The client’s desire for a curved roof required significant innovation. Through additional design studies, the idea of using inverted curves emerged. This led to a final design of the petal-like roof structure. The ability to manufacture the roof’s curvature in the glue lam factory rather than on site allowed us to meet the client’s expectations and her budget.” states Tuer. The roof also has the option of becoming a roof top garden. “It can bring the native bluff vegetation in the form of grasses, mosses and ferns plus some coastal sedums onto the house. The intent is to blur the lines between the natural landscape and the building. Cooling, insulation and rainwater management benefits in addition to the aesthetic values.” states Nielsen. It also adds to the local habitat, something Nielsen pays a lot of attention to in her work and influences the gardens and ponds she designs.
As her home enters the final stretch of completion, Nielsen hopes to have her bed and breakfast up and running in two weeks. She proudly uses Bowen talent where possible. She hired Wood Bros. Construction as “experienced and savvy” project manager and Valek Fine Homes, a well-guided crew of talented builders who often would “go the extra mile”, says Nielsen.
Nielsen’s house will be featured in a touring exhibition at The AIBC Gallery, titled Redefining the West Coast Spirit: Emerging West Coast Firms with Connections to the Land. The group exhibition, curated by James Tuer and on display from October 10 to November 12, will showcase ideas about designing spaces and places within our coastal environment. The AIBC Gallery (100 – 440 Cambie Street, Vancouver) is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.