House on Ancaster Creek / Williamson Williamson

© Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc. © Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.
  • Architects: Williamson Williamson
  • Location: Hamilton, Canada
  • Project Team: Betsy Williamson, Shane Williamson, Chris Routley, Paul Harrison, Dimitra Papantonis, Lucas Boyd, Eric Tse, Donald Chong (Project initiated under Williamson Chong Architects)
  • Area: 3800.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2016
  • Photographs: Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.
  • General Contractor : David Bernstein, DB Custom Homes Inc.
  • Structural Engineering : Ethan Ghidoni, Blackwell Engineering
  • Stair Engineering : Shannon Hilchie, Feat Lab
  • Stair Construction : Lennox Stairs and Wood Flooring
  • Mechanical Engineer: Bowser Mechanical
© Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc. © Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.

Text description provided by the architects. A wide lot backing onto Ancaster Creek is the site for an intergenerational home for a couple and their elderly parents. The house was conceived as two distinct residences, each formed into a linear bar containing the full program of a home. The bars sit perpendicular to each other, creating a landscaped courtyard setback from the street, and stack at the corner.

Massing Diagrams 1 Massing Diagrams 1
Massing Diagrams 2 Massing Diagrams 2

The parent’s suite occupies the ground floor with the living and dining space anchoring the view. The suite is laid out as a single floor accessible apartment with added features to accommodate the specific challenges facing the ageing parents. Among them, well-located drains and a master power switch mitigate issues that have come with memory loss: a sink left running, or an oven left on.

© Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc. © Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.

Running parallel to the creek is the main residence. The kitchen anchors the south end of the house. Set in a double height volume, the 20-foot-tall pyramidal ceiling creates an expansive space that opens to the creek, the courtyard, and above to the sky.

© Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc. © Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.

The grand gesture of a wood-clad spiral staircase connects the living room to the second floor master suite, creating a unique moment in the otherwise orthogonal room and celebrating the connection between floors. The curvature opens as it rises and becomes the ceiling of the adjacent wing, creating a pinwheeling effect that leads to the parents’ suite.

© Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc. © Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.

The ground floor of the house is clad in 3-1/2” thick locally quarried Algonquin limestone which meanders around the perimeter. The coursing is designed to highlight the compression and layering that forms this sedimentary rock. 12” tall stones at the top-most course compress to 4” at the bottom. The horizontal joints are raked deep and the vertical joints are filled flush to emphasize the horizontality of the rock.

Site Plan with Ground Floor Site Plan with Ground Floor

To reduce the ecological footprint, energy consumption was decreased through several key moves. Most importantly, two families are now living on a single-family lot, increasing density without increasing building area. Second is the envelope: A high-performance glazing system, triple-pane wood-frame windows with an average Uw = .77 anchor the highly insulated envelope. Radiant floor heating can then be used sparingly and only to compliment a high efficiency furnace. Finally, a 37 module 9.8 kW solar array was installed across two of the flat roofs, offsetting energy consumption. Combined with LED lighting, these measures culminate in a low-energy home that not only sits comfortably in this Northern climate but met the target for the 2030 challenge in its permit year.

© Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc. © Ben Rahn / A-Frame Inc.