Southern literature professor at Furman University, W.P. had been visiting Sapphire, North Carolina (one hour west of Asheville, NC) for years. In 2009 she asked modern green architecture firm HEDS (now also based in Ashevill, NC) to design a year-round cabin where she could enjoy the outdoors and mountain views. As part of a larger compound of homes, she asked lead architect Hays to design a green home that would fit into the Asheville-Sapphire Valley mountain aesthetic. With those goals in mind, Hays designed a modern gable home that was awarded the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification.
The site is heavily wooded with select views of a nearby stream, meadows and kitchen gardens. To take in the near and long views, Hays designed the home around a series of indoor and outdoor spaces. The two-story structure spans over an outdoor covered space. A second floor terrace is carved into the gable roof.
The concept of the house is influenced by the traditional southern “dogtrot”. This domestic vernacular is thought to have grown out of the one-room square log cabins. As the family expanded, a second room covered by a connecting roof was added. The dogtrot prototype works well in the Asheville-Sapphire Valley climate where one-room deep spaces are naturally ventilated on all sides. The captured outdoor space provides a shaded cool spot to sit and read or enjoy nature.
HEDS Architects located the entry, kitchen and living area to one side of the covered outdoor space (dogtrot). The other side of the outdoor space leads to a separate guest room. A second-story terrace is nestled within the gable roof. A third porch is carved into the guest room wing. The concept then is a simple gable home with a taught skin within which outdoor spaces have been carved. The main kitchen/dining/living space has a tall cathedral ceiling that is overlooked by an upper balcony and stair leading to a second story bedroom and study. Ample corner windows overlook a stream and nearby compound structures.
To reduce energy consumption, HEDS employed SIP (structurally insulated panels) wall and roof panels. The dwelling’s walls are comprised of a sandwich panel of plywood or OSB with a rigid foam insulated core. Because the panels are fabricated off-site in nearby Asheville, the amount of waste used in construction of the green home is minimized. Additionally, the heating and cooling is non-ducted, a more energy efficient approach. Energy Start lights and equipment are used throughout this home.
Materials include Asheville-region wood siding, wormy oak interior paneling and standing seam metal roof (with high recycled content). The concrete used in the foundation has repurposed coal fly ash content. In lieu of standard pressure-treated wood (which leaches arsenic into the groundwater), the project utilizes a borate treated product. Sustainably-harvested wood is also used throughout and less of it – where feasible joists are spaced at 24” on center in lieu of the standard 16” spacing.
The project also achieved its LEED certification through such strategies as limited site disturbance and use of native/drought tolerant plantings.