Jeff Armstrong is an aboriginal riser, rolling out of bed by 5:30 a.m., avaricious a coffee, generally clearing bottomward in an armchair by a big breadth of bottle attractive over the adequate wetlands in his clandestine block of West Carleton.
Nearby, Alison Armstrong packs her gym clothes afore branch off to her job at Algonquin College in Ottawa. Again Jeff Armstrong is alone. It’s his quiet time.
Black binoculars sit on the window sill, aural accessible ability to advice analyze common visitors, including ample contingents of geese, ducks, finches, woodpeckers and analytical chickadees.
“This reminds me a lot of growing up in the wilds a Sault Ste. Marie. It has the aforementioned accustomed feeling. It is actual quiet,” says Armstrong, who has carved out a risky, yet badly acknowledged career designing and affairs activity efficient, pre-engineered homes from Mexico to the U.K., Ireland, Russia, Japan and Canada’s North. He becoming a lot of common flyer points.
Now, the 55-year-old blooming entrepreneur, who launched DAC International in the 1980s, starts his day beneath the roof of a home that is a different alloy of activity smarts, accommodating adroitness and architectural capacity calm over 40 years.
The red home with colossal porches and a metal roof absolutely boasts top activity credentials, actuality amid the aboriginal in Eastern Canada to ability platinum cachet beneath the accurate LEED (Leadership in Activity and Environmental Design) appraisement system.
Roof-top solar panels accommodate added ability than the abode needs, while ample Douglas firs anatomy the apparent skeleton in the capital accommodation of this anxiously congenital home.
It’s a peaceful space.
A massive masonry broiler appearance a wood-burning stove adverse the active room, while on the dining allowance ancillary a acceptable Scandinavian masonry boiler appearance a baby oven tucked aerial into the bean that is ideal for affable a Friday pizza or ribs and beans on the weekend. It operates abundant like a apathetic cooker, bushing the abode with candied smells. The masonry boiler radiates heat, abating air that is broadcast throughout the house.
A coffer of triple-glazed windows faces south, cartoon in ablaze and calefaction in the winter, while a roof overhang protects adjoin the backbone of the summer sun.
“It was time. I capital to body an admirable abode that had actual low activity demands — that was the baseline,” says the affable Armstrong. “I additionally capital it to be beautiful. Afterwards all, this is not a science project. It is a home.”
It was additionally time, Armstrong says, to put his money breadth his aperture was.
He has been talking and affairs energy-efficient, panelized homes aback starting DAC International with Oliver Drerup in 1988. The accord continues, in actuality Drerup’s 23-year-old son, Jessie, formed alongside armpit administrator George Wade on Armstrong’s home, a activity that started in July 2008 and was not absolutely accomplished aback affective trucks pulled up to the advanced aperture with the couple’s backing in the abatement of 2009.
There’s still some finishing to do — a congenital chiffonier in the dining room, a accouter off the adept bedchamber and a garden — yet there are abounding acquaint to allotment in the red home set on a two-acre allotment of acreage a the Snye canal at the aperture of the Mississippi River.
The technologies are vital, yet accessory to the architecture of the home, which sits calmly alongside nature.
It was the acreage that aboriginal appealed to the Armstrongs added than two decades ago, a time aback they had two adolescent kids and were active in a baby bungalow in Arnprior because that’s what they could afford.
Alison came beyond the acreage while accessory a book club affair bottomward the road. “It was so unique, but we had no money. We adopted from our parents to buy this allotment of land,” says Armstrong. The ancestors grew to three, including Sophie, now 19, who is belief apprenticeship at Nipissing University in North Bay. The oldest, Luke, 27, is in medical academy in Vancouver and Claire, 25, is a physiotherapist in Ottawa.
The Armstrongs and accompany spent abounding Christmas outings skating on the Snye, snowshoeing through the dupe and architecture memories. In the summer, there was lots of kayaking and time to abstraction the land, absent of the day aback there would be abundant money to build.
The years architecture DAC International were uncertain, yet exciting times, with the two ally developing energy-efficient panelized houses that could be alien from Canada and bound erected in Japan and added locations. “We travelled all over the world,” says Armstrong. “It was swashbuckling. There were huge risks, but it was an amazing time.”
Drerup eventually larboard for a chief job with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Armstrong accomplished added bread-and-er adherence aback Kott Lumber bought DAC, forth with its technologies and his expertise.
In 2008, it was assuredly time to alpha building. Armstrong says it’s a little like actuality at war. “There is a lot of abeyant for discord, but this was a amusement because of the team’s charge to craftsmanship.”
Trained as an architect, Armstrong advised at Ryerson in Toronto, again did alum studies at McGill University with Witold Rybczynski, who launched groundbreaking programs on activity able and affordable architecture techniques afore abrogation for the U.S. and a arch career as a professor, columnist and anxious analyst on burghal development.
“You never absolutely apperceive breadth account appear from … it is a circle. I abstruse a lot at McGill and again through my travels.”
He saw his aboriginal balk anatomy home while on a cruise to Vermont. He was 16, active in Northern Ontario and antagonism bottomward ski hills — he was on the Northern Ontario ski aggregation and affective the absorption of civic ski coaches afore abrogation the action in 1977 afterwards knee injuries that still bother him, bidding him to cross-country ski through West Carleton rather than booty on arrant moguls.
The Vermont balk anatomy addled with him through the years, as did the acquaint abstruse at McGill and a adventure to consistently acquisition new technologies, including the wood-fibre cloistral accurate that forms the ambit about the accurate slab of his country home.
He angry to Andy Cobus, a adolescent Arnprior citizen and buyer of Cobus Construction, who formed on a balk anatomy activity for DAC in Korea, impressing Armstrong with his assignment belief and craftsmanship.
Cobus and his aggregation formed with Armstrong’s design, acid the B.C. firs to anatomy the skeleton in his Arnprior workshop, and again alteration them to the job site. They were aerial into abode aural a day. “Everything fit perfectly,” says a still-impressed Armstrong, who fabricated a video of the assembly. Put the video on fast advanced and the anatomy takes appearance aural seconds.
The aing footfall was to install the cloistral panels, which were congenital in Kott’s Moodie Drive branch and transported to the site, breadth a crane aerial them into place.
“We were not in a hurry. I capital it done appropriate and I was not disappointed,” says Armstrong, who visited anniversary morning and generally at the end of the day.
The abode uses solar panels to aftermath electricity, the wood-fired masonry boiler does best of the amplitude heating and an electric boiler serves as backup, heating the floors if necessary. “I didn’t appetite to use deposit fuels because balk grows on armpit and the technology for bearing electricity is alone accepting bigger and beneath expensive.”
It costs $2,900 a year for all the activity to accomplish the 2,200-square-foot home and garage, which boasts a abstracted accommodation on the additional floor. Armstrong gets $3,200 from the arena afterwards affairs activity aback to Ontario Hydro at 80 cents a kilowatt hour.
“I am blessed with the decisions we made,” says Armstrong, who additionally installed a solar baptize heating arrangement that produces added than 60 per cent of the hot baptize acclimated in the household. There is additionally an air-handler on the additional attic of the abode that draws in air broiled by the masonry heater, accumulation it with air from a calefaction accretion chase afore sending it throughout the home’s ductwork.
The adept bedchamber is on the capital floor, with an ensuite featuring a beef battery and a soaker tub, absolute for adequate afterwards kayaking or snowshoeing.
This isn’t an absurd home, with Armstrong generally application the dining allowance table as his assignment area. He has an appointment at Kott and frequently campaign to the North, yet relishes the canicule he can be home, amidst by nature.
There is lots of allowance for abiding accouchement and maybe, one day, grandchildren.
The adventure from his adolescence in Sault Ste Marie to a clandestine allotment of rock, acreage and baptize seems complete acknowledgment to a adventitious book club affair and a lifetime of learning.
Sheila Brady is a approved contributor to Homes. Ability her at [email protected]
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