This vacation home at the Northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula sits atop a bluff on Lake Michigan facing Beaver Island. The house was designed and sited to maximize the extraordinary views of the lake. While dramatic, the site presented a couple of challenges that were central to the design of the home.
Due to the harsh winter climate, one of those challenges was to design a structure that maximized the glazing area without totally compromising the thermal envelope of the building. That was accomplished by conceiving of the glazed areas as ten foot tall floor-to-ceiling openings with adjacent wall surfaces of equal lengths that overlap with insulated shutter panels. The shutter panels can be closed in the winter months to limit the amount of exposure and to increase the thermal resistance of the building envelope. They also provide added security for the owners who can lock the shutters in place while they are away. This approach led to an approximate 1:1 ratio of glazing area to solid wall area.
Another challenge was the remote nature of the site. In order to maximize the cost efficiency of the structure and minimize the environmental impact of the project, the house was designed using locally shop fabricated components and indigenous building materials. All of the walls and roof trusses were fabricated by a local wood truss manufacturer. Because all of the glazing was full-height, the wall panels were all simple rectangular units, designed as modular components, that were easily and quickly assembled on site. Locally harvested and milled white cedar was used on the interior and exterior surfaces of the building. Concrete from a nearby supplier was ground and polished for the floors throughout the building and was heated by a high efficiency boiler system. The only major building components not manufactured locally were the zinc roof panels and the monumental aluminum sliding glass windows. Both were selected for their longevity and their ability to be recycled after use.
The construction budget for the 1,450 square foot home was just over $300,000, approximately $225 per square foot. The project was completed in December 2011. This simple and refined solution illustrates the point that small projects with tight budgets can be thoughtfully designed and elegantly detailed without compromising performance or experience.