Smart House

smart house, ryan merriman, katie volding, smarthouse, home automation, jessica steen

It’s always interesting to see what can be done when inspired intelligence hooks up with initiative.

This year’s main attraction at the National Home Show (Place Bonaventure’s main exposition hall) is the Énóvo House, and it demonstrates how coherent planning and new technology could easily transform residential construction for decades — if not for the rest of this century.

Radically inspired by the new “green” thinking that is sweeping through the construction industry, builder Karl Mongrain said he always wanted to design a house that could respect and also adapt itself to its immediate environment without completely destroying it.

Instead of using the standard balloon frame fixed upon a poured concrete foundation, Mongrain’s design uses pre-fabricated units which define his modular approach, requiring minimal support — provided by standard 4-by-4 steel posts resting on a concrete base.

While few, if any, of his two-floor modules measure more than 800 square feet per unit, the space is expanded by a series of floor-to-ceiling triple-glazed window panes which not only open the building’s sight lines to the outdoors, but also work to capture natural heat and light while also keeping out the cold.

Over time, the house can be easily expanded with additional modules erected around the original structure.

With reference to the finer points of early Mediterranean architecture, these additions create an inner courtyard intended to morph into the heart of the home, just as such yards used to be the focus of the Roman domus during the first centuries of Western civilization.

As for technical developments, the Énóvo House provides interesting departures on a number of fronts.

Energy conservation is the constant theme behind every one of Mongrain’s initiatives.

A green roof provides natural insulation as well as the anchor for hanging flora that act as an air conditioner during the summer months.

Rainwater can be collected and integrated into the home’s own water system. And while much depends upon the local climate, fresh water — known as white water — can be collected from the rain, or pumped into the home from a local source.

Once used for drinking, cooking or personal hygiene, it can then be diverted into the gray water stream which is usually used for irrigation and other domestic purposes. And once again re-used, the water is then diverted to the black water stream to finish its journey as irrigation in the organic compost bin.

Quebec’s beleaguered forestry industry might appreciate Mongrain’s generous and carefully applied use of assorted tongue-and-groove floor wood to complete his interior schemes.

Wood, by itself, is an excellent insulator and reduces the home’s energy cost while maintaining its minimal ecological footprint.

And as all the modules are supported by a simple steel framework, wiring and basic plumbing fixtures can be quickly installed after which pre-fabricated panels can be hanged to create the unit’s walls.

Not only does this process replace the relatively expensive Gyprock required to finish the walls on a standard frame, it also provides immediate access to the home’s technical infrastructure in case of emergency.

Mongrain also made sure his is a “smart” house.

While the building’s heating system could be easily adapted to a geo-thermal heat collector, he has also fashioned the building’s roof to collect solar energy.

The home’s perimeter is managed by a computer that regulates the building’s entire operation, including lighting, heating, communications and assorted security systems.

People will recognize American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence on the Énóvo House.

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