LocationDecatur, GA, USA
ArchitectsRobert M. Cain
PhotographsCourtesy of robert m. cain
From the architect. The FIRST modernist LEED Platinum residence in the Southeastern United States
The RainShine house is a two-story, 2800-square foot, three-bedroom, 31/2-bath home located in Decatur,Georgia on a 1/3-acre infill lot. Homes in the surrounding single-family neighborhood are of mixed vintage andstyle ranging from the late 1920’s to present, Tudor cottage to post war saltbox to ranch. Located 1 1/2 blocksfrom downtown Decatur, RainShine is in a very walkable neighborhood convenient to shopping, greatrestaurants, excellent transit options, many other community resources and a remarkable diversity of culturalopportunities.
The project site was specifically selected to allow the owners to pursue their preferred lifestyle of walking,biking and using mass transit in their day-to-day lives. For them, minimizing their dependency on personalautomobiles will result in fewer car trips and thus contribute to less pollution, congestion, less use of importedoil, and a healthier, more community-oriented lifestyle. RainShine, however, does occupy a challenging 1/3-acre site.
Although the property is within sight of the subcontinental divide, buildable area is constrained by aman made flood plain (resulting from poor municipal culvert design and a huge nearby asphalt church parkinglot with inadequate runoff controls), stream buffer requirements and a sewer easement transversing the site aswell as the usual residential zoning setbacks. These factors result in a trapezoidal shaped 3,778 square foot areaavailable for building. The house, porches and decks are thus tightly defined within these limitations but takeadvantage by orienting to the open space afforded through the easement and buffer.
RainShine is named for key design features. The living room, dining, kitchen and guest bedrooms are shelteredby a butterfly roof structured with steel beams spanned by exposed 1 1/2” tongue-and-groove wood decking. Theroof floats above continuous clerestories allowing light to flood into the interior. Light shelves around theclerestory sills bounce and diffuse natural light throughout the interior.
The butterfly roof is designed to capturerainfall (Rain) for a rainharvest system located in the basement and is oriented to maximize southern exposurefor a roof mounted photovoltaic system (Shine). The butterfly design, with its inverted gable, simplifiesrainwater collection, eliminates extensive gutter and downspout systems and associated maintenance headaches.
Occupying the front of the lot is the entrance foyer and a two-story living room overlooked by a study and twoguest bedrooms. Dining room and kitchen flow in an open manner to the living room. The single-level mastersuite extends to the more private rear of the lot and shares a large, covered south-facing deck with the livingarea. A screened porch cantilevers off the living room, engages the street and in conjunction with the livingroom serve to screen the private rear portion of the site. Since automotive accommodations are not a majorconsideration in the owner’s lives, no garage was required.
Sustainability goals were paramount and achieved through energy efficient systems such as natural ventilation,geothermal heat pumps, LED lighting and energy recovery ventilation. Additional features: passive solar designfeatures and devices, high efficiency appliances, extensive use of environmentally preferable/highdurability/salvaged/recycled/reclaimed materials, no VOC paints and sealants, no irrigation, drought tolerantnative species landscaping and (through incorporation of rain garden and rainharvest systems) post projectrunoff equivalent to a woodland state.