Cascade House

Paul Raff Studio

Jury Comments: Built in the long-established Forest Hill neighbourhood of luxury homes in Toronto, the 4,000sf infill home is 30% less in size compared to typical homes of the area. An interior slate-finished wall behind the stair acts as a heat sink, and also functions as an organizing element for the beautiful interior. Sustainability features, such as the reduced footprint, use of durable materials, and careful orientation to maximize natural light, are not radical but are well considered.

Cascade House is oriented precisely North-South-East-West to optimize its passive solar performance. Configured in an L-shape opening southward, its large south-facing windows allow the winter sun to heat the house. A dark slate wall, the primary organizing element of the house, is a passive heat sink: it absorbs the sun’s heat by day, and releases it by night.

A high-performance building envelope allows the passive systems to be extremely efficient and effective. This was made evident during the house’s historically coldest month [December, 2008] when the 375 sq.m home cost merely $100 to heat. Efficient planning and design reduced the size of the house to 30% less than normal for a house in the neighbourhood of comparable amenity, minimizing its use of energy and materials as well as its site impact. It is also worth noting that the design preserved all existing trees on the site.

The house uses durable, non-toxic materials detailed for longevity. For example, a structural insulated panel system [SIPS rather than conventional stick-framing] was utilized which provides a high thermal resistance building envelope and rapid construction.
Also, the sculptural glass screen on its front facade is made from ‘off-the-shelf’ 3/4-in. glass, the most economical glass available. Cut into 475 narrow pieces joined with standard silicone, minimal resources result in a maximization of both daylight and privacy.
Given that the majority of Canadians live in a single detached home [based on the 2006 Federal Census], Cascade House provides a valuable case-study of sustainable architecture and building in Canada. At a construction cost of less than $200 per square foot, Cascade House exemplifies how a low impact, high-performance home can be made accessible, on a cost basis, to more people.


    Architect  Paul Raff Studio
    General Contractor  Tom Fijalkowski
    Landscape Architect  Scott Torrance Landscape
    HVAC designer  Richard Melless
    Structural Engineer  Neumann & Associates Ltd.
    Photos  Ben Rahn, A-Frame; Steve Tsai

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