“Darren, I think we should downsize,” said Janice. Darren had been thinking about it too. With Rob off to school in Toronto and Melissa living downtown with her boyfriend, they had more space than they needed. Darren and Janice decide to subdivide their lot and build a new 17’-wide “skinny” house.
The 17-foot ‘skinny house’ is a novel but controversial typology for Edmonton. While neighbourhoods of low- to mid-rise family-oriented developed would be ideal, perhaps detached single-family housing at an increased density is currently the best-case scenario for successful infill development. The present scheme falls within the prescribed setbacks but strategically ‘bumps out’ to gain much needed relief in the tight floorplan. Designed with ample long-term flexibility, serious environmental features, and up to four times the existing per capita density on site, this prototype proves to be a viable option for future infill development in Edmonton.
Established neighbourhoods feature a mix of housing types including bungalows, split-levels and two-storey homes. To avoid overshadowing neighbourhoods, the house uses a split-level approach with an articulated landscape to compress the peak height to 8.8m – below the allowable 10.1m – but still provide generous 3.3m [~11’] high living spaces. The ‘contemporary vernacular’ of the pitched roof form reduces the visual mass and offers an appealing street-facing facade.
The scheme is designed to accommodate varying occupancy over time. While one family could live comfortably in the house with a detached garage, the site can house up to eight people, leveraging the basement and garden suite when more density is desirable. This flexibility allows a young couple to purchase the house, rent out the basement until they have children, and later potentially move into a secondary suite while their children or other tenant occupies the main house.
Designed with Passive House principles in mind, the house features 12” super-insulated walls, high-quality windows and doors, and a heat recovery ventilator. The roof slope is optimized for south-facing solar panels, anticipating a future net-zero condition. A system of wood slats integrated into the cladding provides shading on the east, south and west facades. High-efficiency plumbing fixtures, lighting, appliances, and equipment also serve to reduce the energy impact.
Pine-tar treated generic wood products, available in limited but complementary colours, are proposed as an alternative to prolific fiber-cement siding. Owners may choose a combination of finishes for the flat panel and board+slat cladding.