The Saltbox Passive House is located in Bromont, Quebec, and is a residence for a family of four. The 3100-square-foot home sits in a meadow at the edge of a 2.5-acre wooded plot. Its design combines elements of the local context with energy-efficient strategies to enhance sustainability while maintaining a modern aesthetic. Through the efforts of the architects from Atelier l’Abri, the contractor Construction Rocket and consultants from the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS), the building has obtained LEED Platinum and PHIUS 2018+ certifications, making it the third certified passive house in Quebec.
The architects employed an L-shaped plan with two different roof slopes that mirror the topography of the landscape. The name of the house stems from the architectural language of saltbox buildings, a form of vernacular architecture from New England. The primary characteristic of saltbox houses is a gable roof over the main section of the building with a single-pitch roof over the lower section, making them easy to identify at first glance.
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The Saltbox Passive House comprises three levels, of which the bottom two are tucked into the mountain along the rear retaining wall. The basement level serves as a workshop and houses a garage. The ground level includes shared spaces for the family. This includes living and dining spaces, which are organized around a double-height volume encompassing the kitchen, pantry, mudroom and powder room. This volume extends to the top level and is adjacent to the passageway that leads to the private spaces, including the three bedrooms and a home office.
Throughout the design process, the architects collaborated with consultants to ensure that the project met Passivhaus Institut standards. Established in the early 1980s in Germany, the institute promotes buildings that consider occupant comfort while maintaining high levels of energy efficiency. This is often achieved through the use of well-insulated interiors, extensive heat recovery from mechanical ventilation systems and conscious design of openings for thermal comfort.
Several design choices were made to ensure high performance without compromising comfort and aesthetics. The house incorporates south-facing, triple-glazed UPVC openings to capture sunlight and frame views of the lush landscape while serving as a means of passive solar heating. Close attention to materiality has further reduced the building’s carbon footprint. Cellulose insulation, excavated stone for the retaining wall and cedar cladding are all readily available in the region and aid in keeping the house thermally insulated. Though the building is connected to public electricity systems and utilities, its enhanced environmentally friendly measures reduce dependence on these facilities.
Photography by Raphaël Thibodeau