top of page

The Design

Well, since last time we have received two of three critical permits. Work is ongoing on site, but we really need the septic permit. More on that in the next post....

Now for the good stuff. Design. People always ask if this is our dream house. Well at least they did with our current house. You'd think with two married architects designing their home, that yes, this would be our dream house. But with architects, your imagination is always bigger than your wallet. So while we are proud of this (hopefully) competent design, Chris' dream house has a bowling alley in the basement, secret passageways leading to some kind of bat cave and a pool on the roof. Also, our dream house does not have tenants to help pay the bills. This is not our dream house, but we are excited about it nonetheless. (See Chris' first parti sketch, note the big flag coming out of the roof and cool tunnel).  Super cool right - is that a happy face? But who has the money to spend on a super-big flag.

early sketches. including 'big flag' concept w/ batman tunnel entry

Why are we building another house after building one four years ago? Because we had the opportunity to, and that opportunity probably had a limited window. We also are architects, we are addicted to building stuff, designing stuff, and testing stuff. Also when we designed this house we were a kidless couple. You could have a family in our current house no problem, and to say otherwise is some serious first world / middle class privilege, but we knew we could do better, so we thought we'd try.

Other than our wallet, the site constraints are the largest factor in the design. Budget and site context usually define design solutions but in this case both are even more limited. Not to make a point of it, but to make the house work, we need to be able to build it for $145/sqft. Generally we tell people they need a minimum of $200/sqft to build a custom home -  that lets you know how limited the budget is. So no bat cave.  We need to fit a garden suite, a 2 unit B+B, and a three bedroom house on the site, 6 parking stalls, a well, septic equipment/ an absorption field while maintaining as many trees as possible. We also need to keep in mind the side and front yard setbacks, the restrictive covenants and the setbacks for the well and septic fields. Also due to the 'cliff' located in the middle of the lot we actually have only half the area available for building. Now throw in the requirements of privacy (no decks look at one another and no windows look at one another) as well as a cool meandering chicane in the road, we are limited on the site. The curve in the road is protect the house from direct views from War Eagle Way and headlights as vehicles pull up to the house. Also, as far as experiences go, its not bad driving through the trees rather than a straight shot to a parking lot.

The first obvious decision is to site the house and B+B on the cliff - this maximizes site lines and light. The absorption field needs to be at the lowest point (refer to previous post). The garden suite really should be as far away from the house as possible. The well needs to be 100' away from the septic field. The electrical service trench needs to maintain 10' away from the waterlines. That begins to define areas for building. We sited our house with south, west and east exposure to take advantage of light. That faced the B+Bs to the north, but we 'generously' gave them access to west light as well. The house pushes out at the east and west to create a private deck for ourselves. The B+Bs are stacked in a two storey volume with access off a great hall. The lower B+B has an east facing deck overlooking the cliff. The second floor B+B has a north side deck with east and west exposures, and views towards the north ridge of mountains.

site plan. we know its small, you can click on it to make it bigger

site: those poles are supposed to be trees.

Our house has the living room overlooking the cliff and trees. The notch in the floor plan frames an outcrop of bedrock. The views from the living room will be forest, accented with dappled light. The dining room and kitchen are built directly off this social family space. Behind the stair to second floor is a den area for us, connected to the family areas but also separate. We decided we didn't want a separate room and wanted to be connected to the rest of the main floor. At the entry are the service spaces, mechanical room, powder room and mud room.

Main Floor Plan

The second floor will have a view over the trees. The family room located at the top of the stair will be a foil to the living room below. This is where it gets architect-y. While the living room will be an intimate space punctuated by dappled light and trees, the family room will be defined by the sky, views and direct sun light. The stair is enclosed with a wood screen, which not only will look cool, but keep kid(s) from continuously trying to fall down the stairs from the family room. The three bedrooms are located across the second floor with the master on the southeast corner. We gave ourselves the view, but hey, we are paying the mortgage. The master has a walk through closet, a water closet and a master bath with a walk-in shower and a soaker tub. The master is separated from the remaining two bedrooms by a laundry room and a common washroom. The other two bedrooms are accessed from a corridor with a niche for a desk and bookshelves. Our thinking is that homework can be done in this area, so that the kid(s) do not need to hide in their room all the time. Wishful thinking, we know.

Second floor plan

The B+Bs are fairly simple bachelor suites with a tiny kitchenette and private bathroom. The one on the second floor is a bit larger as it will be Chris' parents northern pied-a-terre and rented as an Airbnb suite when they are not around.

Windows. There is a fairly accurate model where we considered proportion/relationship of each window, but also ensured no one peered down on each other and we did not have any views of the neighbour. It was a bit of a balancing act. We like big windows, but the contractor (Jackie's bro) does not. They are heavy, even if you deglaze the windows and lift each glazing unit separately. Goddamn architects. Needless to say, window install party? We will supply the beer and pizza. We aren't kidding.

Front of the house

Back of the house

The cladding is a dark corrugated metal siding with the hope that it will blend in to the surrounding forest and the grey bark of the spruce and pines. Corrugated metal. It's durable, and it's cheap ($2.50/sqft). In the Yukon it's a vernacular siding type as it was used in the gold rush because it was cheap, light and stuff was often packed in it. It also goes up really quickly.....provided you don't need to cut it around a ton of windows or have wacky geometry to contend with.  Entrances are accentuated with wood. What kind of wood? We don't know, depends how the budget is doing when we get there. The roof is a 0.5:12 slope which requires a commercial membrane. In this case we are doing a single ply mechanically fastened SBS roof, for those who care.

The house will be on a crawlspace, largely due to the depth of bedrock where we want to build. It will be a PWF foundation on concrete footings as is typical in the Yukon. We waffled on this one. A lot. Concrete foundations are better, and made to last, but in the Yukon where concrete is $275/cubic yard, we just can't afford it. Refer to previous note about budget. We will be putting 5" of rigid foam outboard of the PT sheathing and a self adhered waterproofing membrane on the wood, so it will never be in contact with the ground. An NRC report has shown with that much insulation it is very unlikely that any ground water will get past the foam. The waterproofing membrane is really just a backup, but necessary to sleep at night and just because you are supposed to do it.  Typically builders here use damp proofing 'tar'. No thanks. Why would you use a system with a short shelf life on a foundation with a shorter expected lifespan - we don't know. Also note the name: damp proofing rather than waterproofing. Thankfully its really dry here. Anyways we will get into envelope systems in another post. Those that aren't interested can gloss over that one.

Front of the suite

Suite from the back

The suite is a simple box, with the intent to make it as attractive as possible, while spending as little money as possible on it. It has two bedrooms with a living room / dining room / kitchen area with a window on the east and west to give it morning and evening light. The bedroom windows look out onto the side yard trees and not towards the main house. A deck is located at the entry on the west side, again for light, with a driveway located far from the main house. The roof is a simple monopitch shed, 2.5:12 to allow for shingles (again, cheap!). It is clad in the same dark corrugated metal and wood combination. The suite will be on a basement because we are far away from the bedrock and the slopes on the site essentially require it. We will not be giving access to it to the renters. It will have an exterior door and will serve as our storage shed, workshop and Chris' man cave. Thats where the foosball table goes.

Suite Floor Plan

Thats essentially it! No bowling alley, but we hope it will be an amazing place to live.

37 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page