The clients, a professor and a human rights activist, were searching for a modern green architect in the Richmond and Charlottesville VA region and selected HEDS to design their new home. Removed from city noise, the wooded site offers a chance to enjoy the seasons, to breathe, and to think. Initially, the clients imagined a series of pavilions threaded through the woods and connected by covered walkways. As the project evolved, the architect developed a modern interpretation of the southern “dogtrot” house with a covered terrace between the public and private sides of the house. The “dogtrot” is believed to have originated in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The house was named one of the top ten energy efficient homes built in Virginia in 2010 by EarthCraft and was built by Peter Johnson Builders.
All the public areas, including the living, dining area and kitchen are housed together in the eastern wing of the house. On the ground level of the western wing are the studio office and master bedroom. On the lower level are three bedrooms that are partially embedded in the sloping hillside.
The clients spend much of their time in the breezeway and eat most of their meals there from spring to late fall.
The front facade is a battered wall with dark stained poplar. This wall tilts into the roof with an opening for the breezeway or modern dogtrot. This is the north side of the house and consistent with passive solar strategies, windows are smaller. The opposing wall or south side has ample windows and daylight with deep overhangs to protect from the summer sun.
The passive solar design of the house is but one of the many green strategies the architects have incorporated. Cooling through natural ventilation is also a key goal and the breezeway, in addition to its other benefits, cools air that is then drawn into the spaces through adjacent operable windows. There is also a series of low operable windows along the southern façade and high windows on the northern side that provide a strong cross-ventilation throughout.
A geo-thermal system provides heat for the radiant floors on both levels, which further reduces the amount of energy demand for the house.
The landscape is designed to create a light buffer between the forest and the house, and intended to minimize maintenance. A large flowering meadow wraps around the house with a smaller grass terrace immediately to the south. There is a concrete court, which connects the terrace to the modern dogtrot.
The client wished to have a house with which to revel in the woods around them and enjoy the seasonal variations of the Virginia climate. The house is designed to wed their daily routines with many layers of connections to their surroundings.
The architects were joined by Siteworks Studio for the design of the landscape and Curry & Assocs. for the structural engineering. Peter Johnson Builders were the general contractors.