- Lead Architects:Christopher Short, Derek Mills
- Clients:Kevin & Rachelle Swan
- Engineering:Walsh Engineering
- Collaborators:Construction Manager (WERK | Building Modern
- Country:United States
Text description provided by the architects. Copperwood broke ground in fall 2015 for the family of four seeking an energy efficient, modest, modern dwelling. The site’s name, originated by the Owner’s son, was inspired by the color of the surrounding woods and landscape; an untouched natural site adjacent to farmland and bustling with wildlife, but itself not ideal for agriculture. Ultimately, the design solution was a balance of the unique site opportunities paired with the Owner’s simple lifestyle needs and love of travel.
Of the 20 acres, about 3 were available for construction, with much of the remaining acreage wetlands. Of those 3 acres, an abandoned pipeline intersected from northwest to southeast, helping to further narrow and refine the design concepts. We knew we wanted to design the spaces for passive solar with an east-west primary orientation, but this was counter to the angle of the pipeline. These site constraints resulted in three distinct volumes placed perpendicular to one-another (bedroom wing, living wing, and garage wing). Each component steps with the pipeline angle while maintaining the desired solar orientation and orthogonal relationships, which also happened to work perfectly for desired views and site access.
Since the site is not adjacent to any local roads, it is accessed via a ¾ mile shared easement drive which was once a rail-line. The new gravel drive is located to frame the most complimentary approach while shielding the vehicle court to the far side.
Before engaging the architect, the homeowner had researched prefabricated structures to protect their Airstream, but once we got into the design process, we were confident that the Airstream could provide a unique design opportunity; why not incorporate the Airstream into the overall program and design solution as integrated component (guest room, home office)? Its placement and turn-around became a unique driver of the design, quickly leading to the wing-roof structure sheltering not just the main living space, but also the covered outdoor space and Airstream dock. This primary roof element looks out over the southern landscape angled for passive solar with the bedroom and garage wings providing a flat-volume counterpoint. The surrounding sloped landscape remains mostly undisturbed, with extra soils used to create an elevated soccer pitch to the south.
It was no problem achieving abundant natural light to the main level living spaces and bedrooms, but we also wanted a nice quality of light in the lower level, which includes a partial walk-out. The desire for more natural light led to a north-facing light-well garden on the entry side of the home. This idea eventually led to the entry bridge feature, featuring custom hardware + turnbuckle-clevis details to resist lateral shear.
Thermally-treated wood (Ash) siding wraps the Bedroom and Garage Wings and will weather grey. Main living-dining-kitchen spaces are wrapped in pre-finished white cement board with exposed fasteners. The lower level is exposed concrete. Flat roofs are white TPO, and main shed roof is corrugated metal. Front entry and a portion of the auto canopy are covered with clear corrugated acrylic. Doors and windows are black aluminum clad wood. Skylights are Velux, some operable for stack-effect ventilation. Custom hardware was designed + fabricated for canopies and treated lumber used for all exposed structure at canopies and roof overhangs with galvanized metal end covers at cantilevered joists (treated wood is left unfinished). Overall, exterior materials are designed for low-maintenance and resilience.
Interior features open concept planning with distinct components for Living, Bedrooms, and Garage detailed to make their relationships apparent inside and out. Exterior materials at bedroom wing continue through to interior making the architectural stair wall cladding. Kitchen space features front and back areas with pass-through to serve outdoor entertaining. Lower level features architectural stair, north light-well, and regulation table tennis area for nationally-rated Owner.
Mostly low-tech passive and active green-building strategies were implemented throughout, including passive solar, narrow footprint and abundant glazing + clerestories +skylights for daylighting, permeable driveway (gravel), natural cork flooring, wood-burning stove, thermally-treated wood, construction efficiency (4-foot module), geothermal HVAC, extra wall and roof insulation, overhanging roofs optimized for solar angles, minimized windows at west exposure, low-energy appliances and lighting, and smart programmable controls. Flat roofs are sized for future intensive green roof and solar panel integration. The home achieved a HERS performance rating of 43, which is 60% better than a standard new energy-code-compliant home.