We live in our homes.  And we build how we build for one reason really.  Livability.

Livability now.  And livability into the future.  Livability, not margin, not trend, not builder convenience.  We have tried not to be stifled by the tendency towards “that’s the way we do it… because that’s the way we have always done it…”

We usually ask “why?”  And if the “why” doesn’t contribute to the priority of livability, we take a good look and try to figure out a better way.  Sometimes that means innovating, sometimes it means researching and finding the best practices of others, and sometimes it means accepting that it has always been done that way for the right reasons.

If you live in a house in Calgary, the Livability of your home depends on a few important things –

A livable home should have a really good building envelope.  We like Insulated Concrete Forms for several reasons, but there are other good alternatives.  A balance of insulative value (R-value) and managed air infiltration to keep your home dry and warm.

Calgary is one of the world’s most complex climates to build in.  Radical temperature swings of more than forty degrees celsius over a 48 hour period are not uncommon through the winter.  These temperature extremes place incredible stresses on building envelopes as dissimilar materials expand and contract at different rates.  Freeze and thaw cycles will draw moisture into the most unforeseen places yielding potentially devastating consequences in short order.  Material choices need to reflect these realities.  Interfaces between materials have to be diligently managed to avoid vulnerabilities.  That means – good flashing around windows, careful management of runoff, consideration of aspect (which way does that wood siding face? South? Bad Idea), and so many other subtle elements that dictate the long term viability of your investment.  The envelope is important.

A livable home should have great windows.  A critical part of the envelope, they dictate the comfortability of your home.  The windows are there to let light in.  But also to keep hot or cold air out.  To provide security, and to limit noise pollution.  Good windows will have more than one gasket to provide the seal.  They will lock in more than one place, and they will feature low e and argon gas filled sealed units to manage solar insolation (the heat you feel when the sun shines through your window.)

A livable home should have a flexible floor plan.  One that allows for changes in your lifestyle, or subsequent renovation without significant structural consequence.  Livability.  Being able to adapt your environment to your changing needs, without having to change environments all together.  Modular or carefully planned cabinetry that can be adapted from change table to dresser to desk to match the occupants changing needs.  Showers that can accommodate mobility challenges for the long term.

A livable home should have renewable energy technologies installed or roughed in.  Gas hasn’t always been and won’t always be cheap.  Supplementing your energy needs with solar thermal or photo-voltaic solar panels, or having the infrastructure in place to install this technology in the future, is prudent and will contribute to long term livability by offsetting energy costs.  As a front end investment, current economics make the argument for solar better than ever, if your home is to be durable – and last 100 years, this technology will be an asset.

A livable home should have some significant water saving measures implemented.  Rain water capture, dual flush toilets, high efficiency washing machines, and low flow faucets and shower heads should be mandatory.  Rain water for flushing toilets (and hopefully soon, doing laundry) is an attainable objective now in new homes with modest planning.  Again, this technology may seem expensive now, but like gas, water will not always be cheap.

A livable home should be able to charge an electric car in the garage.  Because, sooner or later…

And, most importantly, a livable home should have some great spaces.  Inspired kitchen design to foster engaging conversation and encourage you to eat at home.  A great family room that allows the family to thrive together – a multi use space that keeps your family in the same room.  Private retreats that give each family member their own cocoon – a place to sleep and revitalize.

Livability is the balance of mechanical and spatial functionality and the comfort and well-being that comes from living in a space that works properly in all facets of life.

We try to be “pragmatically green,” driven by the priority of fostering Livability.  We don’t always get it right because sometimes we find ourselves in uncharted waters… How many homes do you know that use their rainwater capture cistern as a heat sink to provide hydronic cooling in the summer?  But, we do challenge convention and do things differently when it is the better way to proceed.

We understand that the homes we build won’t be for everyone, and that you can build a smaller, tighter, more efficient home.  But we want to be able to convince the most cynical person that they can be greener – often much greener – and still live in a spectacular home.

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