Arlington Urban Treehouse


A couple sought a modern architecture firm in the Arlington and Northern VA region and selected Hays Ewing Design Studio for the renovation and addition of their new home.  HEDS  recommended working with the existing footprint of the Cape style house to take advantage of grandfathered setbacks.  The overall concept for the architecture is that of a modern tree-house — to that end, an existing attic story has been expanded to incorporate the kitchen, living and dining rooms at the third floor which, with an elevated exterior porch, create an overlook to the Arlington neighborhood.  Another key feature: the street facade of the new addition is rotated south to anticipate vertical solar panels.  

To create interest within a tight budget on this urban corner site in Arlington VA, the HEDS architecture firm designed the stair as a series of modern origami-like folded planes.  The simple use of a secondary perforated wall which folds up the balustrade, ceiling and walls uses color and light to great effect.  This idea is carried into the kitchen where a soffit ceiling wraps to become a wall of cabinetry.

The project is seeking Arlington’s Green Home Choice certification.  Among the many green design strategies HEDS architecture firm developed: 1)highly insulated walls and roof to meet passivhaus standards (the home’s energy use is optimized to reduce the loads for the more costly solar panels), 2)a very tight envelope — the exterior is wrapped in two inches of taped rigid foam, 3)high performing windows (triple pane is envisioned), 4)low-embodied energy materials such as cork floors, 5)recycled content materials such as wet-blown cellulose, 6) passive solar strategies — the predominance of windows face south, 7)cooling through natural ventilation — cross ventilation is provided where practical and ceiling fans are incorporated at all floors, 8)high efficiency HVAC equipment, 9)water conserving bathroom fixtures, 10)water collection (cistern) for plant irrigation.  Additionally, the Arlington VA site affords the architects a project accessible to public transportation and by renovating an existing home, the project does not contribute to urban sprawl.

Exterior materials include stucco and vertical wood siding.

The architect’s team was joined by Schnitzhofer & Associates for structural engineering.

  • Virginia Construction Journal Dec 2019