Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

Iconic, efficient Warburg House cost less than $100k to build


May 30, 2012

Canadian design studio Bioi recently completed this compact home in Warburg, Alberta after being given the challenge to create a contemporary and energy-efficient home for under US$100,000 (Photo by: Alison Anderson)

Canadian design studio Bioi recently completed this compact home in Warburg, Alberta after being given the challenge to create a contemporary and energy-efficient home for under US$100,000 (Photo by: Alison Anderson)

Image Gallery (26 images)

Canadian design studio Bioi recently completed this compact home in Warburg, Alberta after being given the challenge to create a contemporary and energy-efficient home for under US$100,000. The result is a simple, open and sustainable home, with a reduced space that holds all of the functionality of a regular sized home. “Working alongside our client, we determined the true necessity of the space that they required,” principal architects Jordan Allen and Ryan Trefz told Gizmag. “Throughout the design phase redundant spaces were eliminated, and non-inhabitable spaces were pushed to an absolute minimum.”

Without losing the sense of open space the home has been squeezed into an interior space of 576 sq.ft (53.5 sq.m). “While the home may be of a size what many people would generally attribute to a cabin or 'weekend' home, it maintains the spatial proportions that are ample and comfortable enough to accommodate two people,” Allen and Trefz told us.

The iconic looking home is raised 200 mm (7.9 inches) off the ground and is positioned along a large clearing surrounded by farmland. The structure is supported by two steel frames, creating the possibility for a single open interior space. “The open interior space and high vaulted ceilings create a far more awesome experience than one might expect by just looking at the drawing or photos,” said Allen and Trefz.

The exterior of the building is protected by black corrugated steel sheets, which extend the full length of the house. Several windows and skylights have been included to allow natural light to filter in from the southern exposure, while also providing views of the surrounding natural landscape.

In keeping with its small proportions, the mechanical room takes up a mere 18 sq ft (1.7 sq m) and the kitchen has been reduced to nothing more than the purely functional. The building’s compact size greatly minimizes the heating load on the home, which is supplied via radiant in-floor heating. In addition, a heat recovery ventilator has been added to capture and reuse as much heat as possible. The heating system is also coupled with heavy insulation (R40 in the ceiling, R32 in the walls) supplying the house with “one of the highest EnerGuide ratings possible due to its reduced energetic demands,” according to Bioi. EnerGuide is the official Canadian rating system for energy consumption or energy efficiency in products.

“[The] mechanical systems, materials, details, and construction methodologies were designed and re-designed to be as efficient as possible not only from a sustainable perspective, but from a labor cost perspective as well,” said Allen and Trefz. “The end result has allowed us to critique and reconsider construction methodologies for efficiency that we will be continuing to research for the future.”

Unfortunately the tight budget prevented the home from being fitted with solar panels, but its current high efficiency renders the house "solar ready" for future additions. Bioi also plans to use the Warburg house as a prototype for future modular housing projects, maintaining their commitment to designing modern sustainable houses that don’t break the bank.

“Efficiency needs to be affordable if we truly want to pursue an ecologically minded future,” concluded Allen and Trefz “And no one said it can’t have some style at the same time.”

Source: Bioi via ArchDaily

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema. All articles by Bridget Borgobello

My wife and I lived in a similar space for a time when first married. It worked out fine.

Proper siting for solar gain, well-insulated, there's no reason at all for more space.

It now is our guesthouse. For one or another family reason - including the addition of dogs to our household - we took over the main house which became vacant.

We don't use all the space we now have.


$100,000 for that? It's not much more than a big empty garage.


Tiny kitchens are burns waiting to happen and there is no storage space. I'll pass.


It lacks a proper foundation.

You could buy a mobile home twice that size for about a quarter of the cost.

Jon A.

100K for that, these guys are smoking crack. You can get the same efficiency with soy based expansion foam and LED lighting, not to mention double the size for about 3/4 the price on the high end. I hate these concept houses that completely miss the mark on price. What a waist of time.

Garrett Ross

In Nome Ak, averaging better than 12,000 heating degree days / year at a 65 degree set point, all of our homes are small. I currently reside in a 450 square foot two story home with two other people. To me this place looks big!

I question the use of vaulted ceilings if energy efficiency is an objective. Efficiency could be gained, and cost reduced, by putting the thermal barrier lower down and leaving the roof as an unconditioned space (but it wouldn't feel as roomy).

So far as raising it off the ground goes, virtually all of our homes are raised off the ground in Nome. If you put a home on the ground, heat from the ground thaws the permafrost below and your home sinks!

Also, the author misses the mark on the ventilation system a bit. If a home is really tight, then moisture becomes a real problem. If there's not some way to transport moisture outside, mold starts to grow and things start to rot (inside the walls where you can't see them). People don't want to use standard vents, because they can feel the cold air coming in. Heat recovery vent systems offer a possible solution, but they need periodic maintenance, and people need to actually use them.

Folks that are interested in this type of stuff should check out www.cchrc.org Alaska Cold Climate Housing Research Center. I'm not affiliated with them, but I like the work they're doing.


Great project! A $100K project sounds impossible here in Massachusetts. Amazing job - its beautiful Daniel Glickman Sustainable Construction

Daniel Glickman

How is $174 per square foot considered sustainable? Sustainable must equal affordable, or this is all just an exercise for wanna be architects coming up with "new" ideas that are impracticable and extremely expensive. How about this, You show me 10 "architect/engineers" given a project for a sustainable structure, 1200 square feet, no less than a 50 rated insulation, all low volt lighting, high levels of natural lighting usage, low maintenance over 50 year period, and builder friendly, and Ill show you a project worth investing in.

Garrett Ross

This project is great. As a general contractor that has been building homes and commercial properties for nearly twenty years - I can tell you that this home on a $100k budget is an incredible feat.

There will always be nay-sayers like Garrett, who seems to have more opinions than experience or knowledge, but when those of us who actually know what we are talking about look at these projects, their merit is quite apparent.

NRG Hound is right about having the home raised - by the looks of the photos, they are in an area of high moisture - making the raised home sensible and the most budget-efficient way to provide a solid foundation.

I also agree with Eideard - with proper siting and design and good solid construction, that amount of space is small in North America, but if you're smart about it - it's more than enough.

For those people who would rather buy a mobile home - go for it. Yes, they are cheap - but they are cheap for a reason. Sustainability is about performance, not cost. And you can clearly tell that the money went into investing in the envelope and mechanical systems, which is the best bet on something of this scale with that budget.

I just wanted to inject some sensibility and experience into the conversation, as it really bothers me to see people like Garrett bulldozing a conversation about a project worth talking about. Think you can do better - then do it, and stop talking about it.

I've been building for years, and I know how challenging projects like this can be. Pulling that off with that kind of style is incredible. Just ask myself - or apparently Daniel Glickman.

Nice work. Keep it up.



Erik W.
Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles