1815 East 6th
Located in the Grandview-Woodlands neighbourhood of Vancouver’s East side, the original house representative of the houses constructed during the early decades of the last century: poorly insulated, disconnected from the street, and with little natural light. The new owners - young professionals with modest funds and a baby on the way - looked to transform the house to suit a contemporary lifestyle with an eye to sustainable building.
The trick was to make a traditional house suitable for contemporary life.
While the project contains numerous sustainable strategies like no-VOC paints, high-efficiency fixtures, and (significantly) on-site water reclamation, the most important operation was the simple act of lifting the existing house to make livable the ground floor. The simplicity of this choice belies the magnitude of its effect as it did more than bring natural light and air deep into the ground floor - constrained by the unique severity of scarcity and speculation in Vancouver’s real estate market, preserving more than 60% of the existing house’s shell not only saved construction costs directly, but also made for faster approvals with the City.
TO LIFT THE HOUSE
The significant strategic decision here was to maintain the majority of the existing strategy and lift the second floor of the house. The first order effect was to radically alter the ground floor, introducing light and air, and changing the house’s relationship to the surrounding grade. This result, however, is underpinned by its economic and administrate advantages that allow the project to take place at all.
The merit of the project lies not in its singular application, but in the proposition that in the peculiar circumstance of Vancouver that the solution to the current housing crisis lies perhaps not with grand ambitions, but rather the empowering of more modest alterations in the city’s urban fabric.
BACK TO THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
The house is within walking distance of Commercial Drive, one of Vancouver’s significant cultural streets and abuts a significant park. Both were important in the property’s selection as they provide easy access to commercial and cultural amenities, as well as casual recreation. The site had no pre-existing parking, and because the owners elected to maintain the majority of the existing house, they were not forced by the city to provide on-site parking.
Equally important for a house, is that community also exists at the scale of the family unit. Here, significant effort was dedicated to the reconfiguration of the house so that it might provide a more communal experience than was possible in its original design.