Project ArchitectGunther Kragler
Principal ContractorGeneral Contractor
Structural EngineerAl Putnam
Text description provided by the architects. A wooded bluff above the Cousins River estuary is the location for a high performance home in southern Maine. Sited in a clearing, to take advantage of solar gain, the south facing windows illuminate the open floor plan and natural light is filtered through the translucent glass of the custom casework in the living space. This integration of performance and aesthetics is characteristic of the Cousins River Residence.
The pine forest dominates the view from the home and spindled vertical trees surrounding the site are a contrast to the low horizontal lines of the single level home. A covered walkway stretching between the house and garage helps connect the buildings to the landscape. The single level design offers aging in place capabilities with access to the screen porch, deck and walkway on the same level as the house. This approach fosters fluidity between spaces allowing freedom of movement from interior to exterior.
The owners modified a pre-designed 1600 sq ft three-bedroom plan to fit their needs. The open floor plan is oriented to solar south, with vaulted interior spaces under the shed roof. Built-in cabinetry and shelving provide spatial separation in the open plan, creating a diversity of spaces within a simple volume. Custom casework and a built-in day bed frame the living room in Baltic birch, while custom ash millwork ads warmth to the bedrooms and kitchen. The concrete floor is not only modern; it is a critical component of the home’s energy performance, helping to maintain and regulate interior temperatures throughout the year.
The Cousins River Residence demonstrates that high performance homes can take on a new form, embracing a contemporary aesthetic in a traditional New England landscape.
The approach for the Cousins River Residence was to create a highly insulated building shell that makes use of passive solar gain to lower space heating demands, allowing the cost and complexity of the mechanical systems to be minimized. The metric used to determine the target level of energy performance for the building was the German Passive House Standard, which represents a 90% improvement on the building’s space heating loads from code-complaint construction. This level of performance is achieved through optimized building shell improvements, including:
• Super insulated foundation (R35), wall (R50), and roof (R80) systems
• High performance triple pane German windows (R8) with 50% solar heat gain
• Heat recovery ventilation system with 88% efficiency
• Airtight building shell with 0.5 air changes per hour (at 50 Pa)
In addition to the Passive House metric, this residence furthers its performance standards with a near net-zero approach to energy consumption. Remaining energy needs are offset with a 4.6 KW Photovoltaic array.