Hot House: All-Weather Mountainside Vacation Home Design


Built as a black box and hugging a snow-covered hillside, this home sits like a rock on the mountain – a rugged resort entrenched against wild winter weather all around it. While winds howl and snow blows on the outside, the cozy interior is designed to be comfortable and warm in all the right places through a series of remarkable sustainable-energy and other warmth-retention building strategies.

First, the highest part of the home takes advantage of rising heat perfect for making the bedroom the warmest space in the house. Second, geothermal heating augments other heating strategies for increased overall warmth. And third, a double-paneled wall uses interstitial spaces and active pumping systems to push out the cold air while maintaining and circulating the warm.

Moreover, the exterior use of black is not purely stylistic nor accidental – this color, of course, helps keep the structure warmer as well by retaining solar heat. The bedroom is also placed along the southern edge of the home for direct sunlight access while the more mellow (but less warm) indirect northern light penetrates on the living room side, where the best downhill views are to be had as well.

All in all, this design by Nicholas Dorval-Bory is an excellent example of adapting architecture to even the most extreme environments – and turning landscape liabilities into designer assets through clever material choices, site orientation strategies and other simple structural tricks of the trade. Few designers can tap so much into the potential of a property, creating something both internationally appealing and locally functional.

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