Text description provided by the architects. Borealis, Team Alberta’s entry to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013, addresses the housing needs of professionals working in remote locations. This modular house was designed in consideration of severe housing shortages and high housing costs driven by booming industries in northern Canada. Named after the iconic Northern Lights and lush Boreal forest, Borealis is designed to be sustainable and ecologically sensitive.
Alberta’s landscape is characterized by mountains, glaciers, foothills, lakes, rivers, forests, badlands, wetlands and open plains. It is a place of vast natural beauty and unexplored wilderness. This is a unique, yet challenging condition. Access to these regions can be extremely difficult and as a result, transportation has been a driving force in the design of Borealis. The home is comprised of three prefabricated modules that can be easily transported from the location of fabrication to various work sites located throughout Alberta. Modularity is an inherent part of Borealis. From the outside, each module is slightly offset to express this idea. From inside however, the home feels like one continuous open space. Each module measures approximately 12’ wide by 28’ long and 13’ tall – a size that easily fits on a flat-bed truck. The modules are specifically designed to maximize the south-exposed roof area and the interior square footage.
Designed for two working professionals, the layout may at first appear unconventional. Utilizing the unique nature of three individual modules, the interior space has been split into two distinct apartments that share a set of common amenities. The living modules each contain two spaces: a bedroom and a multi-functional living and working space. The shared amenities in the center module include a dining space, food preparation area, bathroom, laundry and the mechanical room.
A center “service” module houses the core utility functions of the home, and connected to either side of its length are two identical but mirrored “living” modules. The three modules form just under 900 square feet of usable interior space, and features large, alternating sloped ceilings. The outer two modules have roofs that slope gently towards the south and allow for seamless integration of the flat-mounted photovoltaic array into Borealis’ architectural form. A rainwater collection system also takes advantage of the sloping rooflines and channels rainwater through concealed drainage pipes into a small pond with an overflow into a concealed collection reservoir.
Northern Alberta is known for its wildly varying temperatures (-40 °F in the winter to 86°F in the summer). For this reason, glazing extends across the majority of the south face of each module, allowing for maximum passive heat gain in the fall, winter and spring seasons. Accommodating the summer season, window coverings and a cross-ventilation strategy maintain a comfortable interior temperature. The sloping ceilings of Borealis helps passive ventilation by allowing hot air to rise through the large open areas and collect at the apex of the modules, where it exits through open windows. The design of Borealis also integrates overhangs on the south face, to help shade the interior space from high summer sun, while still allowing heat in during the winter when the sun’s angle is lower.
To learn more about Borealis, visit the team’s page here. Project description is courtesy of Team Alberta.
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