Buzz Yudell, principal of Moore Ruble Yudell, and his wife Tina Beebe, an architectural colorist with the firm, decided to move from a house in a large rural setting to the city in order to be close to work and within walking distance of friends and a wide range of amenities. The urban lot presented the advantages of proximity to community, yet the two wanted to create the kind of indoor-outdoor living they had enjoyed in the country. They also saw this as the opportunity to push their goals of sustainable living, using their own house as a laboratory to potentially inform future work.
Acting both as designers and clients enabled them to treat the project as a case study, in which creating a place of harmony and wonder could align with ambitious environmental goals, including working toward creating a net-zero energy house. In plan, the house develops as a “yin-yang” diagram, with interior and exterior complementing and overlapping each other along a flexible boundary. This creates long diagonal views and movements on a tight urban lot. A gallery-like space links all the rooms and creates a transitional zone between inside and out.
A translucent canopy provides shade while shaping the spaces for outdoor dining and an outdoor “tea room.” At night, the interior lighting of the canopy combines with constellations of pin- point lights to create experiences of space, light, and reflection.
The two-story space at the core of the house is not only environmentally critical, but also functions as a kind of piazza that links all the living spaces. All rooms benefit from the careful washing of daylight and the framing of the landscape.
After one year, the house has performed at or beyond expectations. The photovoltaic array has produced a net surplus of energy, saving about 180,000 pounds of CO2 emissions in 12 months. The solar water panels have provided radiant heating for the house and heat for domestic water and the pool. Only a few times of the year (primarily November and December) required additional energy provided by gas-heated water.
The environmental strategies for the house reflect a tiered approach:
Passive design: The house is shaped in section and plan to optimize convection, natural cooling, daylight, shading, and winter heat gain. The “section” of the house is extruded throughout so that every room participates in this passive design. Thermal mass moderates temperatures.
Renewables: Photovoltaic panels are designed to provide over 100% of the electric energy. Solar water panels are designed to provide radiant heat, domestic hot water, and pool heating.
Landscape & water: The landscape focuses on drought-tolerant native materials, with a roof garden of native grasses. Onsite water retention and drip irrigation further conserve water, while permeable paving and stormwater collection result in zero runoff.
Materials: Throughout the house, materials were selected for minimal environmental impact and durability, including100% engineered lumber; 100% FSC-certified plywood; formaldehyde-free millwork; FSC-certified wood veneer; no or low-VOC paints, adhesives, finishes, and sealants; recycled/recyclable materials (steel, glass, aluminum), and renewable resources (bamboo, young trees). Low-waste framing & millwork practices were used, and 80% of the pre-existing house was donated and recycled.
Energy-efficient technology: An array of low-energy-consuming products significantly reduces energy loads. These include LED lighting, EnergyStar appliances, a high-efficiency gas boiler, and a variable-speed pool pump. The house has no air-conditioning.
Monitoring: Systems are designed so that monitoring and adjustments can take place overyears of inhabiting the house. This is critical so that the owners can use the house as a laboratory for their clients and themselves.