While my future colleagues from Synthesis were implementing Canadian design on Russian fields, I was exploring Canada and the famous “Canadian house” design and technology.
My past experience in Russian residential design was based primarily on houses built from brick, concrete block, and log wood. During that time I had a general knowledge of wood frame construction from my University studies. I had never met a client who wanted to build their residence in wood frame, as I think they associated it with cheap wood frame technologies used mostly in construction of poor insulated summer homes in the past Soviet period. Also in the mentality of Russian clients, their house has to be solid, strong and durable like a castle; therefore I did not have a chance to design any wood frame houses.
Since I moved to Canada five years ago, I have been exploring all the advantages of wood frame construction. It is more economical and timeless compared to other building types; it does not require a massive foundation, houses are more energy efficient (an 8″ thick insulated wall is equal to a 3′-0″ brick wall) and one of my favourites is the flexibility of the design and structural solutions, as well as the ability for transformation.
Wood frame construction allows us to transform existing houses into an absolutely different home suited for your current lifestyle, because of the freedom in the design. Keeping the same footprint, the house can be enlarged, stretched, built up, or have its character changed through the use of new materials or creating exterior details that is expressive of the type of home one desires. Because each house is an unique as its owner, I found that there are endless amounts of housing types and styles, as well as many ways to change these homes.
To illustrate one of the ways where the new house meets old:
One of our current clients, Nicole and Darren Pringle (owners of Kingdom Builders) wanted to transform their existing house by adding an upper story master suite with a large roof deck, office and mudroom, creating an open plan for the living space and giving a new modern face to their non-character house. All the design challenges above were effectively solved and the house had a new contemporary appearance with new roof, new volume and exterior materials, with all of the design decisions based on the existing structure and footprint. Subsequently, once the structural test was completed, a weakness in the existing foundation was discovered, therefore Nicole and Darren decided to tear the house down and rebuild it, but… keeping the same design. I was quite impressed by their decision because even though we had the ability to change the layout of the footprint, there was nothing in the design they wanted to change.
When the client feels comfortable and happy with the design we have accomplished that equates to a successful transformation.
I am quite sure that if we were to design this house as new, it would be quite different from the current design, but the great thing is that the house we call new, actually has an old story, a soul, and years of memories, creating it’s own unique character.