This building is designed to address two conditions that are forecast to become more prevalent with climate change in Southern California: high summer temperatures and wind-driven brush fires. It achieves this goal with a design that minimizes energy use and material resources. With a small but efficient footprint, it treads lightly on the landscape and takes advantage of the spectacular views offered by the site.
The building form began as a simple double-height studio space, partially buried in the ground to reduce its apparent height, with a glazed addition for the kitchen and dining room and a loft space for sleeping.
The north side, which is the most vulnerable to winter winds and fire, is treated like a hard carapace covered with corrugated metal; deep window reveals allow focused views of Boney Ridge. The north wall forms a wrapper which leans out to capture storage space, wraps over the roof, and extends as an overhang on the south side.
The south facade, in contrast, is almost completely transparent to bring in the winter sun and allow views of the ocean and the surrounding hills. On this side, several strategies emphasize the transparency: colored soffits continue through the glazing from inside to out, the glazed corner is detailed with butt-jointed glass, and sliding doors retract in doth directions to open the living room corner.
A sliding metal panel screens the west façade, allowing views of the ocean while protecting the building from fire and the harsh western sun.
The architects designed a structure that resists fire by minimizing its overall height, cladding the structure in metal siding over fire-rated gypsum board, installing sprinkler systems throughout the interior, and planting fire resistive landscaping. Felt curtains are drawn during fire season to protect the large view double-glazed windows to the north.
The long axis of the studio faces 3o E of geographic south, the ideal orientation for passive solar design in Southern California. Large areas of south-facing glazing provide heating in the winter; wide overhangs and a sliding screen on the west side protect the house from heat gain in the summer. The high thermal mass of the concrete floors and east wall, combined with the earth-sheltered design, keeps the interior temperature stable; a thermal chimney allows the cooling ocean breeze to enter at the southwest corner and rise up to escape through a skylight over the loft.
The super-insulated building envelope performs 35% better than the Title 24 requirement, helped by blown-in cellulose insulation in the west wall and low-E insulated glass.
The primary source of heat is a radiant heating system, which uses panel radiators with a natural gas boiler piped for solar panels. A trackable photovoltaic array, battery pack and inverter will provide electric power independent of the grid.
The house is built from a mixture of durable and easily recycled materials, and low-carbon materials made from post-industrial waste. The exterior cladding is Rheinzink, a zinc alloy with traces of copper and titanium. It has a comparable embodied energy to other fire-resistant cladding materials such as cement plaster or galvanized steel siding, but has an anticipated life of at least 100 years and is completely recyclable. The weathered finish was carefully chosen to allow the building to blend in with the surrounding chaparral.