New Modern House 1 located in Zionsville, IN broke ground in fall 2015 for family of four seeking an energy efficient, modest, modern dwelling responding emphatically to its site #Copperwood.
This design, located on a 19 acre lot with natural habitat and wetlands, features open concept planning with distinct components for Living, Bedrooms, and Garage. Major design element includes a dramatic wing roof overhanging primary indoor living spaces and Airstream port, with Airstream functioning as Home Office + Guest Suite while docked. Kitchen space features front and back areas with pass-through to serve outdoor entertaining. Lower level features architectural stair, north bay light, and regulation table tennis area for nationally-rated Owner. Mostly low-tech passive and active green-building strategies were implemented throughout, with the home achieving a HERS Performance Rating of 43, which is 60% better than a standard new energy-code-compliant home.
This project was substantially-completed in late September 2016 – please check-back as we will be posting periodic updates and Owner feedback.
Project Info – New Modern House 1:
Progress – New Modern House 1
No special ceremonies – let’s get digging. Actual site grading was a bit different than planned, but we were able to make the desired adjustments to coordinate with adjacent wetlands and grades.
Foundations – New Modern House 1
There were some questions about actual concrete scope requirements relative to field conditions that were answered during the excavation work. We ended-up realizing some savings by making the right design decisions on the fly. It’s critical that the architect is involved in every phase of the construction to make the right decisions consistent with DESIGN INTENT. We like to shoot for getting footings in the ground and backfilled prior to the ground freezing for winter. Despite some delays, we were able to achieve it on this project.
Retaining Walls – New Modern House 1
The large footings in the foreground are for the Airstream canopy area retaining walls. Initially we had a number of retaining walls on the project, but reduced a few to save on costs. Negotiating the site grades was an interesting process, but we were happy to have saved some effort and cost with some of the decisions.
Basement Foundation Walls – New Modern House 1
It’s interesting how the residential market differs from the commercial market regarding design and construction. It seems the structural engineers and residential trades are often at odds. Having come from a commercial architecture background, and now working predominantly in the residential marketplace – the differences are very evident. Whenever we have a structural engineer collaborate on our unique projects, the concrete trades in particular often have differing opinions on best techniques. It’s interesting to learn the different opinions – many related to costs. Is it really “over-designed”? Maybe it is – maybe it isn’t. In the case below, the concrete contractor wanted to add a few counterfort walls to reinforce the long foundation wall – maybe more for backfilling operations, as once the floor framing/sheathing is installed, adequate lateral support is achieved. Some opined that we could have done with less rebar reinforcement – we stuck with the structural engineer recommendations.
Framing Begins – New Modern House 1
We considered various methods of project delivery, construction techniques, and client priorities relative to project costs. For this project, although we and our client were inspired by prefab homes and their advantages relative to a controlled environment and fast site erection, we chose to site stick-build. We felt this method was going to be the most cost-effective and most logical based on the overall design (open-concept bay widths, heavy timber, large Airstream canopy). We were ready to frame by late December, but had some delays with weather and framer availability. So ultimately, we ended-up starting actual site framing work in early February 2016. So looking-back, maybe prefab would have benefited the process – if feasible with our design. The trick is, we didn’t design it from the beginning with prefab in-mind, which is important in making that technique feasible.
Lumber Sourcing – New Modern House 1
We didn’t anticipate having to source the heavy timber for the project via out-of-state suppliers, but the local lumber yards said they didn’t have access to what we needed. We were able to find what we needed from American Pole and Timber out of Texas. We can’t say it was the greenest way to source the material – I guess if we were doing this project in the Pacific Northwest, we would not have had a problem. Part of the challenge is that all of our exposed wood needed to be treated. We needed 32′ long 2x12s treated, which was not readily available in that length. Texas cut that material for us out of logs, and since their other 6×6 timbers were a better bargain than local suppliers, we decided to load-up the truck with some additional lumber to cover some of our other needs.
Skylight Framing – New Modern House 1
We strategically placed a few skylights into the bedroom wing roof to maximize natural light in the right places – this particular opening is a 3-skylight-wide slot in the Master Bedroom ceiling primarily over the master bed headwall, which floats short of the ceiling and separates bedroom from bathroom. Most of the skylights are fixed, but a couple are motorized to allow stack-effect ventilation. Light and panoramic views achieve a dramatic engagement with the site. Stay tuned for finish photos of these spaces in a few months.
Exterior Wood Siding Installation – New Modern House 1
Framers are working their way around the house on the wood siding installations. The thermally-modified Ash is really beautiful, so client is debating whether to finish the siding to maintain the nice warm tone. Ultimately they decided we will let it weather to grey. We ended-up coming up a bit short on the siding, and had to wait a few months to get enough right-sized Ash to finish the job. This caused some delays on metal copings and some other areas, but on the bright-side, we ended up getting some extra material that we were able to use in a few places on the interior.
Exterior Progress – New Modern House 1
For the most part, the details are coming-out as planned. We have some work to do here and there, but overall we are pleased with how things are coming along. We were fortunate that we were able to acquire the black cement board siding from the supplier, as that particular color has been discontinued – they just happened to have a small quantity still available in-stock. This prefinished cement board siding installation requires precision and patience. Cut edges need to be light-sanded and rolled with a sealer prior to installing, so it is not fast-going. For the exposed steel columns and brackets, we have decided to leave the galvanized finish exposed instead of painting them black. The roof-framing members are treated 2x12s and the supporting glulams are treated 7″ x 16″ mostly oversized for scale/appearance.
Airstream Shelter – New Modern House 1
A major design driver for this project was our client’s passion for travel, and particularly, the integration of their Airstream, “Annie”, into the design. We established early-on in the design process that Annie needed to be 1) Protected, and 2) Functionally-integrated into the design. We achieved each and more. With Annie located on the west side of the property (just a few steps from the Kitchen and garage), the soaring wing roof structure protects Annie while providing abundant shelter from the hot west sun (for the house).
Entry Bridge – New Modern House 1
Each client and each site bring a unique set of design opportunities to the table. The raised buildable portion of this particular site had sloping grades and an abandoned gas pipeline running through the desired house location. The initial and ultimate design concepts deferred to the pipeline, oriented house to receive the south light + best views, and gracefully addressed the sloping site.
This north-facing entry is framed to the right by the garage coming forward and to the left by the short section of the bedroom wing. The angle from bedroom wing to garage mimics the adjacent pipeline. Higher grade is to the north, yet we wanted to achieve natural light into the lower level, which was achieved with the north bay, requiring (well, not really requiring, it was just a cool thing to do) the architectural bridge to access the front door. We are excited about the finishing details of the canopies not yet complete, which includes heavy timber posts and beams with treated glulam beams spanning the basement clearstory. To achieve the structural requirements for diagonal bracing, we are incorporating galvanized bracing of rods with clevis and turnbuckles, while bridge guardrails utilize stainless-steel cable-rail infill. The basement clearstory area steps down to lower level with a couple of 30″ tall landscaped platforms to eliminate the need for guardrails. The light achieved helps make the lower level a desirable living space – stay tuned for photos/progress of the lower level, architectural stair, and canopy details.
Rainscreen Siding – New Modern House 1
We are really happy with how the project is coming along and it is great to see things coming together mostly as planned. The big initial goal for us is that the design-intent is achieved. Then, from there, fit the expected quality within the agreed budget. The trades for the project have never worked on anything like this from an overall design standpoint, so it has been a key asset having HAUS, the Architect managing the construction via WERK | Building Modern, in collaboration with our client. It is a unique, but mostly simple concept and design. However, we have learned over the years that simple, minimal details are usually less forgiving and more challenging to achieve than more traditional details and assemblies – things line up, the trims are minimal, having less ability to hide imperfections.
The white siding material is pre-finished cement board with matching exposed fasteners and 3/8″ gaps at panel joints. The joint gaps are designed to allow the elements (rain) through the assembly, and waterproofed/flashed to drain out. In all but a few special conditions now, our wall assemblies are always detailed as rainscreens. Even the thermally-modified wood is a rainscreen system. The joints between boards are not tight, and designed to drain water and breathe. We sleep better at night knowing our wall systems are built with the best techniques (RESILIENT DESIGN), especially when a project has minimal or no roof overhangs to shelter the facade.
Interior Progress – New Modern House 1
We are going on about month-10 now in the process. Trim carpentry and painting is progressing along with electrical fixture installations, cabinets, and tile. Kevin/Rachelle Swan (clients), Chris Adams (trim carpenter, painter, floor installer, quality control expert), and Derek Mills/Chris Short (Architects-Construction Managers) have been teaming together and with the numerous trades to “bring it home”. Exposed clear-coated Southern Pine beams are double 2x10s spaced with hidden track lighting between – inside space between is painted dark grey to camouflage the dark track fixtures. Beams also are equipped to uplight the vaulted ceiling. All lighting, security + HVAC is controlled via owner’s smart devices.
Rough Grading – New Modern House 1
During the construction stage, we considered a few alternatives to the original south-stepped landscape wall. Ultimately, we decided to abandon the stepped-wall in favor of a new concept – a new elevated soccer plateau – achieved with many, many loads of excavation spoils from other project locations. Coordinating the desired elevations and precise angle at plinth edges has been an effort, but will be well worth it in the end. We think it will be a dramatic functional and aesthetic base – an extension of the modern architecture – a mediator from house to otherwise virgin landscape. Intent is that plinth is manicured lawn, while the surrounding grades will be seeded with wildflowers and wild-grasses for a natural, low-maintenance landscape.
Thermally-Modified Ash – New Modern House 1
Conceptually, the thermally-modified wood-clad east bedroom wing slides though the side of the living space, so we continued the wood from exterior through the interior living space to stay true to the concept. The wood on the exterior will weather to grey – the wood inside should maintain this darkened effect of the Ash wood. The burned-wood smell is evident on the finished product, but only in very close proximity.
Stair has been finished in clear Southern Pine. We considered using the Ash from walls, but it is more brittle and we were afraid it may crack on installation and over time. The pine works for the stair, as it is a nice compliment to the exposed Southern Pine beams in the adjacent living space. We are looking forward to seeing the steel rail system and wood-burning stove installations next.
Client has been instrumental and a great partner in coordinating interior trim carpentry details, lighting fixture selections, and interior finish selections in collaboration with HAUS and the Construction Manager, WERK | Building Modern.
In the early fall of living in the house, Owner has confirmed that Passive Solar Building Design is no joke – home maintaining 70 degrees inside during the daytime (35-45 degrees outside) on sunny days without furnace.
Stay Tuned for More Progress Photos