House in Ski Country Is Built of CLT and Is Almost Plastic-Free

©. Jake Christiansen

Great use of recycled and repurposed materials, too.

We love cross-laminated timber (CLT) because building with wood stores carbon. But there is more to it than that – there is an elegance and simplicity to the way CLT panels go together. That's one of the reasons to love this new house in Fernie, BC, built by Jake Christiansen.

view from loft

© Jake Christiansen/ view from loftFernie is ski country, and ski chalets have often been lined with wood; it just feels warm and cozy. I have sometimes questioned whether CLT is the most appropriate way to build with wood on houses and low-rise buildings; it uses a lot more lumber. But it uses a lot less of other stuff, particularly drywall. It is both a structure and a finished wall. And a bonus is the biophilia effect:

A Canadian study showed that wood in interiors was perceived by a majority of subjects as more “warm,” “inviting,” “homey,” and “relaxing” than all other tested materials (Rice et al, 2006). The top-rated rooms in the study were “completely wood dominated, containing little to no artificial materials and having large windows with views of nature, while the bottom five rooms were characterized by a marked lack of anything natural,” and the lowest-rated room of all, a modern living room, was perceived as “cold” and “uncomfortable” by most respondents.
dining room

© Jake Christiansen/ dining room

But there is more than just biophilia going on here; there is also a serious attempt to get away from plastics. On the outside of the CLT the house is wrapped with Rockwool comfort board insulation, with the various cladding materials framed over that. And much of that cladding is recycled, old boards and even old rusty siding. I wonder what the neighbours thought when that went up.

note the bathroom door

© Jake Christiansen/ note the door to the toilet

Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver once wrote about adhocism:

It can be applied to many human endeavours, denoting a principle of action having speed or economy and purpose or utility. Basically it involves using an available system or dealing with an existing situation in a new way to solve a problem quickly and effectively. It is a method of creation relying particularly on resources which are already at hand.
Kitchen with recycled doors

© Jake Christiansen/ note the kitchen cabinets

There is a lot of that happening here; the best example is the fridge door in the bathroom. It is all clever and imaginative reuse of old objects and materials. There is a simplicity to it all; Jake writes in an email:

It is a simple house with an in law suite – affordable housing is an issue in Fernie. It is small but feels large. It is constructed using CLT panels, roxul insulation, recycled metal and wood accents for siding, combi boiler heat, repurposed materials throughout. Thought about minimal input – limit trim work, non finished concrete slab floor, etc. It was constructed with budget, environmental impact, and longevity of house in mind.
old doors in bathrooms

© Jake Christiansen/ old doors installed on new bathrooms

I do worry a bit about the old lead paint falling off those doors, but I love the look.

There is a lot going on in the plan, too; there is a ground floor suite that can be rented out, with a three bed/ two (elaborate) bath unit above. The house is being rented out on AirBnB right now, so the big luxe bathroom layout makes sense.

At one point, Jake gets defensive: "I understand many may say it is not passive, CLT is not 'green', etc, etc, etc.... but every step outside of traditional building norms helps."

I don't think he has anything to worry about. The CLT is perfectly green, especially when it is left exposed and eliminates the need for drywall and plastic. Rockwool is better than foam, and recycled is better than new. Care is taken in the detailing to eliminate thermal bridging, windows are triple glazed. Who's complaining?

Loft in Fernie

© Jake Christiansen/ loft

I am also re-thinking my issues about building with CLT when a stud wall uses far less wood. A stud wall has to be covered in drywall, losing all the charm and warmth that you see here and in Susan Jones' house. This house will look, smell and feel good for a very long time. There is nothing like wood.