Gallery: Ellis Park House Set the Sustainable Standard for Altius Archi...


Ellis Park House is a 4,300 square foot family home located in the Bloor West Village neighborhood of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. The single family home, completed in 2006, presents a great example of a holistic and integrated approach to sustainable design. Altius Architecture Inc. overcame construction challenges to successfully build this “bold modern house” on an overgrown infill site, and the Ellis Park House sets a standard for sustainability that the firm continues to practice today.

Where others thought “impossible” – Altius saw potential.  The 168 Ellis Park overgrown infill site was originally considered unbuildable. Although a hindering 45 degree slope and shallow lot presented many problems, the desirable urban location allowed great possibilities for passive solar gain orientation and spectacular views over Toronto’s High Park.

Altius’ permanent approach of soil nailed shoring was unprecedented in Ontario.  This method provided earth retaining structure to stabilize the extreme slope.  Soil nailing is a reinforcement technique which improves the internal strength of soil masses and makes them self-supporting.  After inserting a system of grouted steel bars (nailing), the structure is then supported by weather-resistant facing or a retaining wall.

The house is comprised of insulated concrete forms and structural insulated panels.  The majority of the structural steel frame and heavy timber beams were reclaimed from a World War II era aircraft hanger at CFB Ottawa or salvaged from the Ottawa River.

A geothermal loop installed under the basement slab of the house is connected to a sophisticated hydronic heating, cooling and domestic hot water system.  A combination of thermostatically controlled zones, in-floor heating, dual air-handlers, heat-recovery ventilator with intake filtration, humidity control and outdoor sensor system provide optimum indoor comfort.  Supplemental heating comes from traditional clean burning contra-flow masonry stoves and fueled with construction waste and felled trees from nearby.  The geothermal system only operates during six months out of a year and during the other months, air-conditioning is almost completely unnecessary.  A thermo-siphon night-time venting system offers natural cooling throughout the summer months.

Ellis Park House is an open-layout design filled with natural light.  Materials include cork, reclaimed stone, birch and marine plywood, clay brick copper and Douglas Fir.  There are two platforms with green-roofs.  The third floor inhabitable roof-deck enables homeowners to enjoy beautiful views of the city.

+  Altius Architecture Inc.



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  1. cmenigault April 27, 2010 at 6:44 am

    I completely agree with drejto. 4300 sq. f. for a single family is anything but sustainable, and should definitely not be shown as an example !

  2. drejto April 25, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    The practices and technology that this house showcases should be used as models for other green homes. However, everyone should keep in mind that this is a 4,300 sf house for a single family. I can’t speak to how large the Ellis family is, but the average American home is only 2,100 sf. The concept of a large “green” house like this, especially when population is predicted to rise 50% by 2050, should not be used as a model for ordinary homebuyers and builders.

    It’s great that this home is demonstrating the potential of these technologies and green techniques, but i believe that oversized homes like this should not be portrayed as model green homes

  3. eco-panda April 25, 2010 at 11:08 am

    i love house’s like these. they’re so beautiful and stylish and eco-frieandly. thats how i want my house to look like when i get my own place 😉

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