Muskoka River House


“Right-Sized” house, which means no wasted space, compact but generous volumes, interconnected by an expansive, sweeping ceiling over the entire main floor. The composition consists of two counter posed butterfly roofs supported by a series of ‘stretcher’ beams on round steel columns. A particular challenge was to find a way to integrate a garage/workshop without overpowering the architecture. The solution proposed was a garage that’s roof formed an extension of the lower butterfly roof with a gap in between the main building and the garage. This forms an outdoor court that activates and engages both the building and the landscape. The garage door peels way from the corner, rather than on one-side only, creating a perfect space for outdoor occasions. Natural woods and black siding let the building stand proud, with the upper floor floating above a grounded base.

Sustainability Features

  • Program and Spatial Optimization
  • Integration with the ‘Natural Assets’ of your Site and Terrain
  • Site Specific View and Vista Optimization
  • Passive Solar Heating
  • Natural Ventilation and Passive Cooling
  • Natural Daylighting
  • High Performance Envelope Design
  • Material Optimization and Modular Design
  • Renewable Materials and Finishes
  • Reclaimed and Recycled Materials
  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Non-toxic Materials and Finishes
  • Radiant Heating
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation
  • Water Conserving Appliances & Fixtures

Large roof overhangs – entirely constructed from R40 SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) provide excellent Summertime shading to large expanses of thermal glazing – ideal for passive solar heating in the Winter. A low-albedo roof membrane reduces Summer heat-gain, and provides opportunity for the addition of a green roof later on. These overhangs also provide significant outdoor amenity areas during inclement weather, and protect outdoor furniture. The continuity of the ceiling plane and soffit helps extend the interiors with the exteriors – essential in establishing a connection to and appreciation of the site.

While we considered a geothermal system based on the Muskoka River, the cost and efficiency were not well suited for this project. Space heating is delivered by a natural gas-fired, zoned, in-floor radiant system. A heat-recovery-ventilator (HRV) Natural daylighting washes the interior from high transom and clerestory windows. Marvin-Integrity fibreglass windows were used for excellent value and thermal performance (R3.5) Insulated concrete forms prevent wasted form lumber for the slab-on-grade foundations, and R40 Walls and Roof minimize heat-losses.

Low VOC paints, caulking and adhesives were used, together with a kitchen and bath vanities from Aya Kitchens and Bath.

Altius Project Team Architecture

  • Andy Thomson
  • Trevor McIvor

Project Partners

  • Builder: Dyer Contracting - Port Carling
  • Engineering: Hamann Engineering - Toronto
  • Mechanical: Teby Heating