Mill Pond House

Residential

Charlottesville Architect HEDS designed solar home

The Owner asked Charlottesville VA architect HEDS to design a net-zero solar home on her property in Faber, VA — a beautiful mountain property located between Charlottesville and Lynchburg, VA. A primary goal for the architects was to design a green home that integrates the rhythm of the owner’s daily schedule with the spirit of the land and its micro-climate.

Both the client and Charlottesville architect HEDS share a passion for a Zen design approach and the importance of celebrating the “rituals” of everyday life. The client is a graphic designer who works in Charlottesville, VA during the week and spends evenings and weekends on projects which include printing, book-binding and painting, as well as cooking and farming.

Her 94 acre estate is in a small town, Faber, south of Charlottesville, close to the Blue Ridge mountains and a short distance to the setting for “The Waltons” TV series. The architects sited the house on a hilltop to take advantage of the surrounding views, particularly to the west toward the Blue Ridge, as well as the prevailing breezes sweeping across the hillside. The architects designed the home with advanced Passive House principles and is a Zero Net Energy home.

In a single calligraphic gesture, the Charlottesville VA architects designed the roof to flow from the south encompassing the kitchen, dining and living space on the ground level, the bedrooms and studio on the second, the promontory on the third and cascading down to the north after spanning the carport.

The client spends much of her time on the ground floor; which encompasses the entry and master suite as well as the primary living spaces. The architects designed the interior space to flow upward with the shape of the roof; with two bedrooms and a graphics studio on the second floor; and a small observatory used for meditation and an outdoor overlook on the third floor.

Three large walls clad with dark grey cementitious panels span east to west with fins that provide shade for the openings on the east and west sides. A large battered wall clad with cedar on the west supports the cantilevered overlook. The walls running east to west are clad in Hardipanel and the walls north to south in wood creating a strong visually dynamic play of form and color. The Hardipanel walls (blue) run from exterior to interior, creating a series of thresholds that demarcate the public and private realms of the house. This cladding approach is a strategy that has worked well for the architects for projects located in the Charlottesville, VA region. The Hardipanel cladding is low maintenance and not subject to mould – a common problem with the humidity typical of the mid-Atlantic region.

Another primary design goal of Charlottesville Architect HEDS design was to unite the house with indoor and outdoor living. The southern terrace is used for dining, relaxing and witnessing the changes of flora and fauna from dawn to dusk. The overlook provides long distance views of the mountains and approaching wildlife such as hawks, falcons and the occasional bold coyote.

Net zero energy use home

With solar panels in mind, the Charlottesville VA architects designed the roof for southern exposure and the incline to optimize the maximum potential for energy production. The solar panels produce 100% of the home’s energy needs through an 8 KW array system. The solar panels serve 100% of the homes needs. Excess energy is sold back to the local service provider. The Owner also accrues credits for those cloudy days when the panels are not producing energy.

Beyond the functional requirements, the architects’ concept for the roof form took on a dominant role in the building design: it folds up, around and down to shelter the house to the north and open up to views to the south. The roof shapes the interior spaces from the first level to the third floor as one continuous evolving fluid form. The standing seam metal roof allow for easy clipping of the solar panels.  

Solar Chimney / renewable heating

The architects designed the home to act as a solar chimney: ventilation flows from the lowest windows on the ground level to the highest windows in the observatory. A modern interpretation of the traditional “widow’s walk”, a third floor yoga room has windows on all sides and serves as a solar chimney, exhausting out hot air.  

Heating is primarily provided by a dual-sided tulikivi, a stone fireplace, in conjunction with the passive solar home design.