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This is a guest contribution from Deborah Cameron, a designer / project manager who was on the design team for Cave Avenue Homes.  Deborah also lives in this co-op community.

In Banff National Park in Western Alberta lies a 19-unit residential housing project called Cave Avenue Co-operative Homes.  Cave Avenue was designed by one of the most prestigious architectural firms in North America, William McDonough + Partners.  Completed in 2005, the project was built to LEED Silver certification.  Cave Avenue has a light footprint with some of the following sustainable features:

  • Energy Efficiency – R30 walls, tripled glazed and Visionwall windows, high efficiency gas fireplaces as the only heat source, Energy Star appliances, and on-demand hot water tanks;
  • Water Conservation – cistern for rainwater collection used in irrigation of native plants + dual flush toilets, low-flow fixtures and showerheads, composting toilet in common space, vegetated roofs to reduce storm water run-off, and native plants used throughout requiring little or no irrigation;
  • Indoor Air Quality – programmable heat recovery ventilators, windows on exterior walls to provide cross-ventilation, materials selected to minimize off- gassing such as low VOC paint, formaldehyde-free countertops, and slate flooring.

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The cutting edge contemporary design and sustainable features are enhanced by the co-op’s location.  Sited on a steep slope on Cave Avenue, the gateway to Banff National Park, the project is adjacent to a wildlife corridor.  At any given time, residents can see elk, deer, coyotes, wolves, bears (both black and grizzly), and cougars in their backyards.  Numerous hiking and biking trails are located just seconds from our front doors and within walking distance of downtown Banff.  The air is fresh, the river is clean, and the mountains views are vast and breathtaking.

The residents include artists, musicians, chefs, designers, photographers, retired people, and, of course, numerous resident dogs and cats.  All are passionate about living here.  In fact we often comment that it is “the best keep secret in Banff.”

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As a resident of Cave Avenue, my experience only makes me more passionate about sustainable design and the inherent benefits of a healthy interior space.  We spend 90% of our time indoors, so why wouldn’t we want it to be as healthy as possible?  Connecting ourselves with the outdoors is easier than we think.

Living with a smaller footprint is more efficient than most imagine.  Just a few small changes can make an enormous impact.  In most cases, it’s really just about educating people to the possibilities – and they are endless.  As an interior designer/project manager (currently studying for LEED AP accreditation) my passion is to share this information with others, so they can reap the benefits of creating a sustainable, and ultimately, healthy lifestyle.

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[Ed. note] Many thanks to Deborah Cameron for sharing her personal experience living in a well-designed, modern, healthy co-op community.