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When Toronto architect Stephanie Vermeulen's parents were looking to build a retirement place outside of the big smoke, they set their sights on a forgotten ravine lot an hour east of the city in Port Hope and hired their daughter to design a sustainable dream home.
The Augusta House, as it's now known, thanks to a blog (augustahouse.blogspot.com) that followed its construction, is a contemporary, comfortable space that shuns green gimmicks and instead uses new construction materials and smart design to earn its eco cred.
"The simplest way of making a home green is to position it properly," says Vermeulen. "Make use of the angles of the sun and the prevailing winds to moderate the temperature and ventilate the home naturally."
The Augusta House has no air conditioning and depends on stack ventilation. That is, warm air in a third-floor office pulls cool breezes up from the shady ravine level. During colder months, oversized windows on the back of the house allow the sun to warm the space naturally. There's a small boiler and in-floor heating to help on extra-chilly nights.
Maintaining a comfy living climate depends on insulated concrete formwork construction that also helps with air-tightness. Vermeulen finished the interior with hardwood flooring engineered from scraps, locally made millwork and water-based lacquers.
But building green is only half the battle, so the home was designed to encourage living green, too. A small garden still has room for composting, growing vegetables and planting hearty native species, while Port Hope's city centre is just a five-minute walk away.