Flagstaff Harmony Innovations: Integration of Indoors and Outdoors - Homes Across America Search Return

Flagstaff Harmony




Goals of Innovation: The overall objectives for this home were to implement as many practical sustainable features as possible, and to completely integrate the indoors and the outdoors. The Owner and the Architect set these objectives into motion with an extremely thoughtful design process. The Builder implemented the design with patience and thoroughness. In the end, a vision stemming from a lifestyle that values outdoor experience and a commitment to sustainability turned into a place where people comfortably reside in harmony with the living earth.

Description: Strategies used to achieve these objectives involved a mix of design concepts including “canyon” as metaphor, “long thin house”, modular elements and passive solar design integrated with living activity. The main part of the house has a linear nature starting in the East (sunrise) with the kitchen, followed by dining and a small office and entry, then the living room, the library and finally the master suite on the West (sunset). Remarkably there are no hallways within this part of the house so all space is used efficiently. There is a “bridge” that connects the house with the guest suite and garage. Captured by the “canyon” walls of these two wings is the sunlit patio that opens directly from the dining, living and library through a series of glass doors. This patio is the heart of the home and the “canyon” concept.

Heat radiates from the colored concrete floors (with tile inlay), which provide thermal mass to complete the passive solar design. The design developed into a series of stepped “modules”. Dramatic views are captured to the East from each module through relatively small efficiently placed windows. These modules facilitate the use of structural insulated panels in combination with heavy timber roof trusses. Metal roofing with attached photovoltaic panels provides a clean look and clean water to the rainwater collection tank. A greenhouse with a greywater system is connected to the laundry and master bathroom.

Obstacles: Extra time and energy from the team was contributed through coordination and patience. The team worked to implement a number of systems and intentions in efficient and effective ways. Some specific obstacles included: 1. integrating the heavy timber roof trusses with inherent point loads with the structural insulated panels, which tend to prefer uniform loads, 2. developing an agreement with the local power company to buy back electricity, 3. The greywater system does require maintenance 4. digging through rock to place the rainwater tank, which became quite expensive, and 5. additional oversight of subcontractors unfamiliar with some techniques or the sustainable goals of the project.

Cost Information: Costs associated with innovative design are hard to quantify. It always pays to be as thorough as possible in thinking through the implementation of intentions. Home design costs can vary from 1% to 20% of construction budget, depending on the services provided by your designer. Everyone is encouraged to value the time all parties contribute, including owner, the designer and the builder.

Additional Benefits/Drawbacks: The design of a long thin house has an inherent drawback. There are a lot of perimeter exterior walls in relation to the amount of volume and longer utility runs. This translates into potentially higher heat loss in winter and increased utility bills compared to a more compact home. The Owner of this home feels that the benefits of the design outweigh the drawbacks. As he says, the long thin design is part of the “soul” of the place and achieves the objective of integrating the indoors and the outdoors. The home is comfortable and cozy for a casual living as well as for entertaining (up to 35 in the winter and 150 in the summer). One of the most pleasant benefits comes from what was almost an afterthought and that is the porch off the East side of the kitchen, which has become a beautiful place to enjoy sunrises.

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