The R-House is grounded in its site--the landscape was formed from earth excavated for the house's foundation. A berm planted with a native grass encloses the backyard, and a paved terrace allows space for a kitchen garden. In winter months, a slight depression in the backyard can be flooded and frozen for skating. And since many lots in Syracuse's Near Westside neighborhood (where the prototype will be located) are similarly sized, this site configuration can be deployed easily throughout the area.
Developed by the design team as a simple folded surface, the form of the R-House can be seen as a (literal) twist on the traditional gabled roof: The architects set the gable askew and tucked small front and back porches beneath it. Energy-efficient features are integrated into the house's design. Ample windows with triple-pane, double-low-E glazing on the south face optimize solar gain, while external shading and an operable skylight aid passive cooling. Heating demand is met entirely by warming the required fresh air supply. The house's compact form enhances its energy performance, which meets Germany's stringent Passivhaus standard.
The house's base floor plan (second from right) can be adapted in multiple ways. An owner can live on the first floor and rent out the upstairs (far left); turn the first-floor office into a child's bedroom (second from left); add a fourth bedroom, on the second floor (middle); or use the office to accommodate extended family (right).