The cabin will serve as an accommodation space for the non-profit arts centre and an educational exhibit for sustainable building with salvaged materials.
The cabin is the brainchild of Julien Jodoin-Eng, an artist from Toronto. He designed it with the help of engineer and green building advisor Michael Barton, who has worked on many alternative building projects in Nova Scotia.
Jodoin-Eng draws influence from time spent in New Mexico learning and practicing a building style known as Earthships, which are passive solar structures often made from natural and salvaged materials such as tires and aluminum cans, developed by architect Michael Reynolds.
“There is just a ton of excitement and energy down there towards alternative building and I think I brought some back with me when I came home,” Jodoin-Eng says.
While exploring Nova Scotia by bike, he discovered the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, where he eventually decided to volunteer. It was there that Jodoin-Eng came up with the idea of building a structure on their forested property. The following three summers he returned to Nova Scotia to plan this project, fundraise through crowdsourcing, and finally build the eco-cabin.
After speaking with local builders in the area and conducting his own research, he settled on a design he believes is more suitable for the climate of Nova Scotia, while still retaining some key earthship features.
The result is a single-room cabin built with both salvaged and new lumber, insulated primarily with straw bales. The cabin sits on a shallow foundation, with insulation around the entire perimeter that prevents the freezing temperatures from getting below the foundation.
The cabin uses passive solar design, with south-facing windows that let in maximum sunlight. The sunlight is absorbed by the repurposed concrete patio stone floor and the earth plaster covering the straw bales on the walls and released to heat the space throughout the day.
The cabin will be an extension of the main building, serving as a sleeping space with no power or plumbing necessary, but some off-grid systems could be added in the future if necessary. The finishing touches will be put on the cabin early next spring.
Jodoin-Eng says the process of designing and building from start to finish—for the first time—was overwhelming but ultimately rewarding.
“To watch an idea of mine that started as a drawing take shape and become a part of the landscape is very empowering,” he says. “And to find out what it takes to create the comfort and safety of an indoor space has been very informative and has given me a new appreciation for existing buildings and interior spaces.”
To learn more about this exciting project, visit Firefly Eco Cabin Project and make sure to follow Julien’s Instagram account (@julijeng) to stay up to date with all his current and exciting projects.
For further reading about off-grid builds using similar practices, check out these houseporn.ca articles:
All photos courtesy of Julien Jodoin-Eng.
Researched and written by Emma Cosgrove, a graduate of the Journalism program at Ryerson University.