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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 Design Program.

“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 country.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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