Faced with the prospect of paying for an expensive hydro connection to the rural lot, Solares Architecture came up with an alternative solution
If you’re looking to build a country retreat, take note of where the hydro poles are. It’s the sort of site detail that urban dwellers might miss – after all, unless you’re building a laneway home, ready access to utilities is more or less a given in the city. But if you’ve already bought a lot and lack a nearby hookup, you’re not totally out of luck. For a fee, Hydro One will connect your far-flung home to the grid. It’ll cost you, though.
Recently faced with that dilemma, Solares Architecture presented an alternative solution to their client: forgo the grid altogether. “We said to our clients, ‘Hey, we can do an off-the-grid project, and you’ll never have an Ontario Hydro bill again,'” says Josef Hanik, a designer at Solares. The added cost of going off-grid was roughly the same as getting a hookup, and, luckily, the home’s design already featured large a south-facing rooftop suitable for solar panels and a mechanical room large enough to accommodate battery banks, and wouldn’t need much tweaking. “It was a pretty easy sell,” adds Hanik.
The savings could add up for a long time, too. Designed for a couple in Toronto and built by Reeves Fine Homes, the home is made for the long haul, with aging in place, versatility and sustainability in mind. Its two main volumes are built nearly flush to the ground and are joined in a T-shape, creating a neat farmhouse silhouette whose neat lines maximize energy efficiency – a specialty, along with sustainable architecture generally, of Solares. Inside, past the foyer that gives way to an open view through the home, that translates into high, cedar-clad cathedral ceilings in the living space and kitchen. The flooring – or lack thereof – is actually the home’s concrete slab, polished to a sheen and featuring radiant heating throughout. And – fitting for a relaxing withdrawal from bustling city life – it has a wood-fired sauna, too. It’s a convenient marriage of old and new: the shape of the home recalls Prince Edward County’s agricultural roots, but the design and finish are thoroughly modern.
It’s also designed to need little maintenance, meaning weekend getaways don’t become working weekends. The corrugated steel siding and roof will survive season after season, and the cedar will patina to a matching silver grey. “You buy a 50 or 60-year-old cottage in Muskoka, and every time you go, there there’s something on your list to complete,” says Hanik. “It’s not a retreat if you have to go away to a project or a property and then have to work on it.” SOLARES.CA