WOBURN, Mass. — The architecture firm Booth Hansen designed a private retreat on the forested shores of Lake Huron in Ontario. Treading lightly on the previously undeveloped lot, the owners sought to maximize the views and access to outdoors, while remaining good stewards of the land. The seven-acre setting hosts a cluster of standalone “cabins” connected by weathertight walkways to total 4,500 square feet.
Thomas Young Builders Ltd. constructed three of the five cabins parallel to the water, following the site’s natural contours. The envelope of each cabin showcases RHEINZINK-GRANUM® basalt-colored, matte-finished, architectural-grade zinc. Nearly 12 tons of the metal was provided by Sheet Metal Supply Ltd.
Alpro Sheet Metal fabricated and installed the zinc material as angled standing-seam wall cladding and roofing. Decorative, deep-gray zinc cladding continues into the interior of the walkways, further connecting the indoor and outdoor environments.
“Their dark color allows the cabins to recede into the shoreline forest, thereby intentionally diminishing the presence of the structures when viewed from the water,” said Booth Hansen’s Principal, Christopher Guido, AIA.
A Sustainable Retreat
Completed in 2021, the private retreat on Lake Huron is one of the first projects in North America with RHEINZINK-GRANUM, which was introduced to Canada in 2020. For centuries, European homes and buildings have relied on zinc building materials. Founded in 1966 in Germany, RHEINZINK is one of the world’s leading producers of architectural-grade zinc. In the early 1990s, RHEINZINK-CLASSIC bright zinc, and RHEINZINK-prePATINA blue-gray and graphite-gray zinc debuted in the U.S. and Canada.
Contributing to the Lake Huron retreat’s sustainable goals, RHEINZINK-GRANUM delivers a weather-resistant, self-healing, corrosion-resistant material with a potential lifespan of 100 years. At the end of its useful life on the buildings, the metal remains 100% recyclable.
Installed properly, zinc cladding systems will resist air and water infiltration. For regions with high winds and hurricane conditions, zinc systems have been tested to withstand high winds as required by codes and local jurisdictions. In environments that are susceptible to fires, zinc also provides a noncombustible solution.
Zinc’s inherent metallic properties allow the material to deliver low-maintenance and long-lasting performance. No paint, varnish, or sealants are required. Runoff is minimal, non-staining, and does not adversely affect the environment as the zinc material’s patina naturally forms.
“Our resilient, basalt-hued, RHEINZINK-GRANUM provides an immediate, distinctive dark-gray finish. Over time, the dynamic qualities of the finish and the zinc alloy naturally patinate to a lighter toned gray,” said Richard Strickland, RHEINZINK America’s regional sales manager. “The ever-changing, unique coloration and character of this elemental material will continue to evolve and enhance the buildings’ design throughout the decades.”
The retreat’s environmentally responsible design and construction also employed passive house insulation strategies, optimizing thermal performance for occupants’ year-round comfort and energy-efficient operations.
“Windows are aligned with one another to promote cross ventilation through the cabins as well as to frame specific views of the exterior from the inside. Operable windows located near the peak of each gabled volume allow for natural stack effect to remove heat from the cathedral ceiling volumes as well as to allow diffuse light to enter,” said Guido.
When privacy, security and shading are preferred, the structure’s offer a unique design solution.
“Custom zinc-clad operable shutters are recessed into the walls on a concealed track to secure the building and protect the windows when it is not in use, but recede from view and provide additional insulation to the walls when open," Guido said.
RHEINZINK-GRANUM flat-lock tiles were also fabricated and installed by Alpro Sheet Metal to precisely frame the openings.
"The windows and shutters were sized perfectly, so that the seams would terminate next to the opening and all panels would be the exact same width," Strickland said.
For added thermal comfort, radiant floor heating was utilized and geothermal loops were installed into the bottom of the lake to sustainably heat and cool the home, according to Guido. He also noted the cabins utilize a raised pier foundation, respecting the site by maintaining the natural topography and allowing snow melt and rainwater to drain naturally into the lake.
Interior programming for the retreat’s cabins includes five bedrooms, four baths, a powder room, a great room, a study/library and a garage. A central cabin holds the living and dining spaces, opening onto a waterfront deck. The glass and metal enclosed walkways on either side bridge to two sleeping cabins. The study/library comprises floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a view across the water to the distant lighthouse, a structure that recalls fond childhood memories for the owner.
Deeper in the woods, an independent, 1,500-square-foot, two-level building offers garage space on the lower level and a private dance studio on the second floor.
“Four sides of glass allow dancing among the treetops along with a view back to the water,” said Guido. "While our clients were intrigued by the austere, dark-gray zinc cladding for the exterior, on the inside of the home, an aesthetic that bring in color from the landscape was desired.
“The earthy interior palette was pulled directly from the surrounding landscape. Jade green cabinets emulate the pine trees, while chocolate-toned wood flooring recalls the forest floor. Furniture and personal items further propagate the idea of natural moments of color in the woods.”