UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 3 |
Mar. 3, 2005
Architecture Grad’s Prototype Home Earns Praise
By Brenda Austin
Architecture firm Metis Design-Build aims to use common sense
in house design and building, making simple changes that are
economic for owners, environmentally astute and socially integrated.
Its partners design and build homes themselves, saying the
interaction between the designer and builder is essential
to implement their ecological principles. In this way, the
firm provides a sustainable, alternative form of housing that
costs less per square foot than comparable homes.
“Our name says it all,” says Erick Villagomez,
a graduate of the UBC School of Architecture who runs the
firm with partner Jerin Dunsmoor and teaches in the UBC Environmental
“Metis is a Greek work that indicates a wide array
of practical skills and acquired knowledge developing in response
to a constantly changing natural and human environment,”
says Villagomez, who is also a consultant with the Design
Center for Sustainabilities.
Metis Design-Build recently launched the prototype of a
home that incorporates their principles in Delta, B.C. Called
the SmartSpace Home Launch and Detached Dwelling Forum, the
event received rave reviews from municipalities, the David
Suzuki Foundation and financial institutions.
“In this house, we used a narrow footprint and careful
placement on site to maximize use of the lot space as well
as the natural water, sun and wind paths,” says Villagomez.
By placing windows in the living area of the house on the
second level, above the bedrooms, they used passive solar
design, bringing light to where it is needed most and capitalizing
on solar heat gain in the winter. A deck off the living area,
above the garage, allowed privacy as well as interaction with
the street and community.
To save the owner extra cost, Metis simplified the design
and construction of the house, using affordable detailing
and a compact layout. An appealing extra was the interior
space that has one central “wet wall” structure
with no load-bearing walls to make future design changes easy
as the family’s needs change.
The finishes are non-toxic throughout, and a permeable driveway
allows rainwater to drain into the earth, two features, among
others, that please Jose Etchevery, Research and Policy Analyst
of the Climate Change Program for the David Suzuki Foundation.
“Much thought went into this project which has a minimal
ecological footprint but with a better quality of finish,
higher standard of comfort and 30 percent lower cost per square
foot” he said. “This is a paradigm shift in this