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Savaria Vuelift - Project Hilltop

Perched on a ridge above the city in one of Calgary, Alberta’s most exclusive neighborhoods, the 10,000+-square-foot custom home has it all. City views. Mountain views. State-of-the-art home theater. Fully equipped personal gym. Indoor pool and infinity hot tub. A wine bar with glass racks. Heated outdoor walkways and driveways. Cortizo automated telescoping patio doors. A soaring 16-foot round skylight. Even the boiler room is luxurious with 11 boilers lined with checker-plate wall finish, LED lighting, and polished copper pipe.

And the Savaria® Vuelift® Round+ Glass panoramic elevator is in the middle of it all.

“Every room in this home is truly ‘wow,’” Christopher York, president of Riverview Custom Homes, a multiple winner of the Small Volume Builder of the Year title at the BILD (Building Industry and Land Development) Calgary Region Awards, told the Calgary Herald in a 2021 feature article on the home. “The city views are incredible, but so are the valley and mountain views.”

Built from steel and concrete to provide structural strength, the home features large, open spaces, and a one-piece forged steel spiral staircase.

The architects, Jackson McCormick Design Group, designed the home to make the most of the dazzling views, using curves throughout the home’s footprint and interior elements, so that sightlines change from cityscape to the Rocky Mountains through the maximized use of glazing, especially on the south-facing side of the house.

Those views are one of the reasons the architect firm chose the Savaria Vuelift for the home. Centered in a chrome-detailed spiral staircase that was designed around the elevator’s dimensions, the three-stop panoramic elevator travels almost 25 feet through the home to rest beneath the spectacular 16-foot-diameter skylight. While other options for a glass elevator were considered, the Vuelift Round+ Glass model won out, thanks in large part to the availability of local expertise.

“This was a project almost five years in the making,” said Chris McClary, Operations Manager of ElPro Elevators and Lifts, Inc., a Calgary-based company that boasts 30 years of collective experience in the elevator installation and repair industry, providing everything from traditional and luxury home elevators to accessibility elevators, wheelchair lifts, through to passenger elevators.

As the installing contractor ElPro worked side-by-side with the architect, builder and interior designer through every phase of the home’s design and construction.

That deep collaboration from design through to turnover allowed ElPro to both plan in advance and adapt on the fly to create the best outcome for the homeowner.

“Being part of the project from the beginning allowed us to really understand the goals of the homeowner, the architect, the designer and the builder—and how the Vuelift had to fit within those plans,” said McClary. “Then we worked closely with Savaria to create the bespoke Vuelift that exceeded every expectation and technical need. Collaboration from everyone is what made this project such a success.”

McClary’s team used a four-inch pit then pre-installed the optional silver colored steel frame of the Vuelift while the home was still under construction. 17 months later, the ElPro crew returned to a near-finished home to install the glass panels in the Vuelift frame.

“We had to use a lot of ingenuity and creativity,” said McClary. “In my 14 years in the business, this was the hardest install I’ve worked on. But it is so worth it!”

Beyond the usual need to be aware of safety concerns and the added vigilance against damaging surfaces that’s involved when installing an elevator in a completed home, the ElPro crew had to work in the tightest of confines.

The circular staircase—with treads and stringers edged in chrome (“It would be so easy to scratch that,” said McClary)—had been designed to a three-inch clearance from the integrated glass hoistway of the Vuelift, eliminating the need for an inner handrail on the stairs that might otherwise interrupt the imposing beauty and dramatic effect of the interior design.

Finally, the crew had to build temporary scaffolding to complete the installation of the very top of the Vuelift, which rises alone to almost become one with the giant skylight.

“They changed the height of the skylight partway through the project, and are now talking about raising it another 10 feet to create a glass vestibule to house the Vuelift, which will open to a rooftop garden,” says McClary. “The modular system of the Vuelift allowed us the flexibility for the first extension, and I feel confident it will be able to accommodate a second extension if the homeowner decides to go for it!”

But this installation goes beyond being a thing of beauty and conversation piece for all the visitors to the home. The combination of the panoramic glass Vuelift, the skylight and the chrome-accented staircase serve another design purpose—natural light floods through the living space from top to bottom across all three floors, and is reflected and refracted by the Vuelift and the chrome to penetrate into various aspects of the home’s interior.

The result is a healthier, more sustainable indoor environment, as ‘daylighting design’ techniques, or the increased use of natural light in architecture, have been shown to reduce energy consumption while boosting mood and the occupants’ feeling of connection with nature.

And with views like these—and a home like this—in the heart of the Rockies and Canada’s big sky country, how could you miss?

“The home is spectacular, dare I say, extravagant,” says McClary. “It was a challenging project to work on, but one we are so proud to have in our portfolio. I can’t wait for the next custom Vuelift job to come along.

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