The Okanagan landscape is challenging and beautiful. Rather than flatten and scrape the site to allow a building to be dropped in the centre, break up the program and let it fit the contours of the land. Develop relationships between the buildings and the existing landscape. Celebrate the connection of building to ground.
Respect the Site
Use Local Materials
Wood is the renewable building material of the future, and it is all around us. Explore different species: larch grows on the hills above Penticton, and can be used unfinished for siding or exterior screens. Douglas Fir is being manufactured into glulam beams and wood windows here in the valley. Lodgepole Pine is plentiful, and the smallest trees can still be made into structural tongue and groove decking.
Reduce Energy Use
We are not rich in rushing rivers, coal, or oil, thankfully. We have a mild climate and no good excuse for wasting energy we have to import from flooded Kootenay valleys. Through proper building orientation, adequate insulation and efficient fixtures, we can reduce our energy use to a minimum. By designing all electric buildings, we are preparing ourselves for the renewable sources of the future.
The Okanagan is hot, but not for many months of the year, and it’s a dry heat. With proper shading, thermal mass, and good air flow, we don’t need air conditioning. Mount shades outside the windows. Only build one room deep. Make your windows big, and open them, or better yet, make whole walls slide away. Pay attention to the prevailing breezes, and orient your buildings to use them. Leave existing mature trees to shade your roof.
Orient to the Sun
Let’s build like the Romans, and turn our buildings to the sun. South is the best direction for windows to face, because the high summer sun is easily blocked, and the low winter sun can penetrate deeply to heat floors and bodies. If the heat source is radiant and in the floor, the sun will turn off your heat pump.
We have an arid climate, let’s enjoy it. The grasslands took thousands of years to get established, so let’s take care of them, and learn from them. We can save our water for vegetables, fruit and wine. Existing trees provide shade, natural contours control stormwater and erosion.
Express our Culture
Make it Beautiful
But our buildings need to be more than just functional. We don’t want to simply sustain life, we want to live it! Sunlight, shade, natural breezes, outlook to nature, these are the joys of Sustainable Hedonism. Beauty and inspiration are integral parts of a more enjoyable, more connected, and more authentic architecture.