Our client has been a contractor of high-end custom homes for the last 20 years. This, the 7th in a series of houses he has built for himself, is essentially an exercise in architecture and building that explores the boundaries of prefabrication within the realm of architecture and the aesthetic expectations within the custom home market.
Unlike many prefabricated houses, this house was not designed around a prefabricated system or product. Instead, we developed a house for him and his son that is generous in its functions, sensitive in its relationship with the land and maintained an honest expression of its materials. The use of stock materials and an elaborated development of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) construction were applied to the design. The resulting richness of this house stems from the contradictions that exist between the ideas of custom and prefabrication.
Built on a small parcel of land that many deemed un-build able because of an easterly pond and a westerly wet land, this house nestles into one of the most dramatic and natural “yards” in the neighborhood, having little-to-no impact on the surrounding site. The house is comprised of a kit of parts: glass, concrete block, Glulam beams, SIPs and pipe.
Despite the maximum use of glazing, that fluidly connects the interior living spaces to the exterior environment, the shading and privacy techniques that are incorporated into the architecture of the home allow the interior spaces to be naturally lit throughout the day without the need for lighting, shades or maintenance-type privacy fencing.
With locally manufactured 12”x12”x24” black fly-ash concrete block (made specifically for this project) left exposed on the exterior and interior, a polished concrete floor, exposed beams and conduit, and not one ceramic or glass tile in the house; the honesty and practicality is evident. Yet, the garage is finished as if it is another room in the house, with the same lighting, fixtures and materials.
The structural system of the house maintains the honesty of expression. Prefabricated and predrilled Glulam beams sit on the concrete block and support the large boxes (bedrooms) that sit above the main living space.
These two boxes (as well as all non-masonry walls and roofs) are constructed entirely of SIPs with a factory-applied gypsum finish. The use of SIPs for the roof and wall systems have an increased insulation value of 33% above current code requirements making this house responsible today and for years to come.
All galvanized and plastic pipes for the electrical and mechanical conduit are left raw and exposed like veins throughout the house. A separate building/tower housing the mechanical systems is given an unprecedented prominence.
What started as another house-project for our client, resulted in a building that holds unexpected value. The thought of moving on from this house to tackle project #8 is not as easy as it once was.