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Integrating a landscape project into the natural lay of the land

Resolving natural and man-made challenges

Several technical challenges were faced during this project, including the site’s steep topography, restricted access, and protecting the existing forest along the property’s edge. Further, the design also had to adhere to strict municipal bylaws as the site was subject to the Plan for architectural establishment and integration (PIIA).

Several technical challenges were faced during this project, including the site’s steep topography, restricted access, and protecting the existing forest along the property’s edge. An additional, man-made challenge was adhering to municipal bylaws for the site, which was subject to the Plan for architectural establishment and integration (PIIA). This section of the bylaw allows the municipality to control development and construction in sensitive parts of the territory, whether the interest is architectural or related to town planning, or a sector still characterized by its natural environment.

To meet the PIIA requirements, any design proposal had to meet strict criteria such as minimizing changes to existing topography and water flow, preserving existing vegetation, and rehabilitating access corridors. The regional government had specific requirements pertaining to the use of native plant species for site rehabilitation, while the presence of a substantial deer population made the selection of deer-resistant plants a necessity.

The site coverage ratio for the property was limited to 20 per cent of the total area, necessitating special permission from the City of Mont Tremblant before any work permits were issued. The landscape architects worked closely with a team of urban planners and surveyors to develop a design proposal that modified the site coverage requirements, but was still acceptable to the local administration. Therefore, in order for this project to be successful, the dynamics of the team had to evolve as the project advanced. This meant putting egos aside to keep the overall vision for the project in sight. Further, the ability to maintain a dialogue between the various contractors and professionals helped reinforce this collaboration, which also worked well to instill client confidence.

Once the construction permits were issued, Hodgins & Associés oversaw the bidding process and evaluated the various contractors responsible for construction. Val-Mar Pools in Mirabel, Que., was hired to install the swimming pool, spa, and waterfall basin, while Northland Landscaping, based in Mont Tremblant, was responsible for hardscaping and planting.

Site preparation and construction

The first order of business was the creation of an access way from a road on the northern edge of the property and the removal of mass amounts of material. Surveyors were on-site to monitor the progression of the excavation and to make sure the limits dictated by bylaws were respected. Once the material was removed, the area was then sculpted to create a series of terraces, while a boulder wall was installed along the southern edge of the site. After the rough grading was completed, the concrete framework for the water features and the base for the silica stone patios were installed. The main pool and waterfall basin measure approximately 8 x 15 m (26 x 50 ft), while the shape and width of the patios were dictated by the stone ridges on site.

To avoid blasting into the rock face, the design followed the contour of the natural rockscape. This strategy was approved by the City of Mont Tremblant as the design preserved the natural setting and the quality of the landscape and scenery. To create the waterfall, stone masons enhanced the water flow by slightly adjusting the rock face; however, no other modifications were necessary.

As the project advanced, managing the various stages of the water feature installation, while troubleshooting their operation, created a steep learning curve. With the goal of creating a seamless flow between the site’s natural and built environments, cutting-edge pool and spa technology was used to create the illusion of an uninterrupted flow of water throughout the site.

For instance, water spills down the rocky outcrop opposite the house and into a small pool (the spa). It then falls into a huge pond (the swimming pool) before cascading over the side of a cliff (the infinity edge) into a smaller pool (the overflow basin). While visually connected, each of these water elements required its own circulation, filtration, and heating system. Hidden within the pool house were a 914-mm (36-in.) sand filter for the pool, a cartridge filter for the spa, and a total of five pumps ranging from one- to three-horsepower for the pool filter, spa filter, waterfall, and spa jets. The pool required a 400,000 British thermal unit (Btu) propane heater as well as an additional water heater, while the spa required a 200,000 Btu propane heater. In terms of water maintenance, the pool was equipped with a salt chlorine generation system, while a bromine distribution system was selected for the spa.

For the pool and spa to appear as natural as possible, particular attention was paid to its finishing, coping, and surrounding patios. For example, locally quarried stone was selected for the hardscape elements, while boulders were incorporated along the perimeter of the main pool. Custom notching the boulders to fit over the pool’s edge was a time-consuming process as some required a full day’s work to be installed correctly. Finally, natural stone was used for the pool’s coping to give it a more rustic appearance, while the interior was finished to look more like a pond and mimic the neighbouring lakes.

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