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A modular home for outside-the-box living comes to Berwick


BERWICK - Christine Nielsen and George White’s house has been the talk of the town ever since the first box arrived in early December.

This CSA modular home, designed by Halifax architect Nicholas Fudge and constructed by Liverpool based Lloyoll Built, is the first of its kind in Nova Scotia. While modular home design is not new, this home has been built around the owners’ needs now and into the future, so they won’t be boxed into a home that isn’t completely wheelchair accessible.

“No one has done modular quite like this before,” says Nielsen. “Usually the boxes are brought and stacked and t-boned or scattered like a compound. This feels more like a normal house. None of the boxes are arranged at right angles, it’s not obvious but the hallway bends a little making the house a bit more interesting.”

She says she is not exactly sure how many square feet are inside, as the arrangement of the seven boxes over two stories are not at hard angles and are difficult to measure.

Two of the modules were built on site, while the five others were constructed in Liverpool, shipped here and dropped in place. Two sections of the main floor are separated with a hallway bridging the two ends.

Nielson says because her home is so unique, she will give house tours to anyone who stops and asks for the next few months. After that, visits will take place by invitation only.

People usually ask her three main questions when they see the unique design. The first question is usually, “What is it?”

“I know that people have been wondering about it. Some have told me they think it looks like a prison, others ask if it’s a hospital,” she says. “We want people to see this.”

The home has been built around them, as Neilson and White described their likes, living needs, and wish list, and six weeks later the architect brought back a conceptual design to suit their lifestyle today, and into the future.

“This house is meant to be lived in, it’s not a palace inside,” she said. “We’re just like everyone else with mud tracked on the floors. Okay, maybe we’re just weird dog people.”

The hallways, doors and rooms have been built to accommodate wheelchairs. The one-bedroom main home features spacious rooms; a self-contained guest apartment for live-in caregivers; a sauna; a two-car garage with an electric car charger; and wifi repeaters throughout.

Other features include a mudroom entrance complete with a leash rack and an elevated dog bath for their four, four-legged friends. Nielson’s studio has north facing windows, a design wall, ample workspace and 24 feet of storage space that reveals the full rainbow of wools and fabrics she uses in her textile art.

“This lighting will make me feel like I’m on the beach, even in January,” she said. Lighting is an important feature throughout the property. Inside the LED lights are on standby, and strategically placed to provide the best light for each room and its use.

Outside it’s deliberately low key at night, partly to cut down on light pollution and partly so the couple can enjoy the stars.

Rooms and windows have been arranged to face east and west to maximize the daylight during the time when the room is in use. Morning light beams into their bedroom and kitchen, north light beams into Neilson’s studio.

While the windows are smaller than more traditional designs - some set low near the floor- they are positioned to catch the exact angle of the sunlight as it moves across that part of the home throughout the day.

The design and construction also consider the environment and its goal is to create a zero carbon footprint. Decks and outside stairs are constructed out of fibergrate and will never need to be replaced.

Walls are built to maximize insulation value. The home is kept warm or cool through heat pumps, and also uses natural gas.

Nielsen added the second thing people ask is how power is generated by the solar panels in the back. These large solar panels produce 6.5 kw of energy. Any extra power that is produced is directed back to the town’s power supply.

“People also ask, why Berwick?” she says. “We came here for the quality of life, we like the people here. It’s a town rooted in tradition and yet very progressive, with a rich counter-culture. It’s an interesting place for people who want to live outside the box. And did I mention I think the scenery is amazing?”

To see updates of the home and glimpses of the inside, follow Chris Nielson on Instagram: @cnielsenns

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