(Spring 2019): Most certainly, we’re excited to report that the design + construction pricing process is just about complete. Therefore, we anticipate ground-breaking by mid-summer 2019! Without a doubt, we will plan to share the design + construction process and what we learn along the way. So please check-out the ongoing updates below!
(Update 12/2021): We completed construction (substantial completion) in late fall 2020, and our clients have been living in the home for just over a year now. They have had time now to get acclimated and make it theirs (the personal touches). Also, we had the opportunity to start finish photography in late October 2021. We’re so excited to share the images. But these things take-time, so be sure to check-back for updates. We’ll be sharing soon!
Project Info – Back40House
Long ago, the government granted large plots of land to families in 160 acre parcels. Per below, the land for Back40House has been in our client’s family since the early 1800’s, with 80 of the original 160 acres still family-owned.
From client page:
05 March 2019 – “So we are starting the journey to move back home to Indiana. Our time in California has been great, but our family and friends back home are pulling at our hearts. We have the opportunity to build our dream home on property that has been in our family for six generations. We will be building on the back forty acre parcel that was part of the original 160 acres settled by my family in the early 1800s. So we have nicknamed our future home the “Back40House”. Be sure to follow this page to see it all come together…from a clean sheet of paper and an open meadow, to the home where we will continue to care for the land that our family has cared for over the past 200 years.”
06 March 2019 – “As we will be building on family property, I have been digging in to the history a bit. I found this great map of Adams Township from 1876. Notice the highlighted block then owned by J. S. Davis. That was my 3rd great grandfather John Smithson Davis. The Back40House will be in the south west corner of that plot. We are so grateful that our family has kept this property over the years, and fortunate to have the opportunity to carry on that tradition.”
Our clients, Brad and Nan were living in California when we began the design process. Brad and Nan flew-in for our first site and design charrette meeting in early February 2019 and we made a productive day of it. We started off the day walking the site to get a feel for the lay-of-the-land. After that, we headed to the HAUS studio for team introductions and an afternoon design-brainstorming session.
Having explored a few ideas and variations, we have settled on the two similar diagrams below that represent the essence of the design direction. Generally, these two variations express a difference in material concept. We have settled on the bottom diagram, allowing the studio-master suite volume to become a special accent material setting itself apart from the predominant material.
Main House is to the lower left, two lateral volumes separated with a central entry hall. And to the right, garage is detached and connected via breezeway/entry porch. Also, to the north, more detached garage volumes continue the same massing and materiality to make-up owner workshop.
Inspiration – Front 40
This south elevation view below shows the main living volume in grey siding, and breezeway entry to the right. To clarify, we are exploring an exterior material palette combining naturally-weathered wood + corrugated Corten steel siding. Also, we are planning to keep existing site grading intact and project over the landscape to capture the best views to the south, west, and north. Equally important, in conjunction with dense treeline to the west, deep roof overhangs will provide shelter from prevailing weather and western sunlight.
Telling the Story
Site Staking Day
To get our septic design completed, we first needed to stake the building locations. Things ended-up pretty close to where we thought they would on the site plan, but we did make a few adjustments on-the-fly based on topography and existing treeline locations. The surveyors were good to work with and they spotted the grade elevations we needed to make final design adjustments.
07.28.19 – We have septic approvals, and are awaiting building permit review. Albeit, we anticipate having footings in the ground and back-filled by mid-September so we can then be weathered-in by end of November. For sure, we want to be sure we aren’t held-up by the winter weather.
Clearing a Path
This photos below were taken on on the first day heavy equipment showed-up to cut the new access drive and clear a route through the treeline. Soon thereafter, we would be excavating for and pouring footings.
Jack is Happy about it!
The Frogs are Probably Not happy about it
Forming Foundation Walls
The massive rectangular footing and foundation on the elevated west-end of the house is under the double indoor-outdoor fireplaces. Since this end of the house is elevated on piers, this footing and wall above it will serve as the primary shear wall on this end. Shear walls keep the building from swaying sideways from wind, earthquake, or wild house parties (housequakes).
One may wonder why would someone come-up with a pier design like this? Good question. We put a lot of thought and effort into designing the piers to be integral and complimentary to the overall building massing. Altogether, we explored a number of variations to arrive at the final solution. Simplicity is always a goal, but this doesn’t look that simple. We joke that it’s a lot of work to make things simple, and simple oftentimes can be more complicated.
Rough Carpentry Commences
This giant window wall frames a view from the Kitchen island north. During the design process, we put a great deal of thought into how best to frame views inside-out and outside-in. It’s rewarding to see the concepts develop into built form. It’s fun to be an architect.
A few years ago, we helped a client with their Midcentury Modern house in the Glendale neighborhood on the northeast side. It had the most incredible living space. What made it incredible? Besides the nicely-scaled space, it had the most amazing quality of light. Clerestory windows surrounded it continuously on all sides. We’ll never forget that space, and we refer to it often when designing new spaces.
For Back40House, we’ve incorporated an east-facing clerestory window to bring in a similar quality of natural light. In conjunction with the 12-foot tall vertical slot window in the same space on axis with the entry, we’re really eager to see how the light defines this bedroom and changes throughout the day and from season to season.
Flat Roof Design
Although it appears so, not all of the roofs on Back40House are “flat”. The two “bars” are sheltered with 2:12 metal panel shed roofs, one preweathered galvalume, and one Corten steel. Together, these two sheds form a pseudo “butterfly roof” configuration. Flat roof between the sheds collects all water and channels it to the open-mouth scuppers located at porch awnings. This flat-roof connector continues over the breezeway to garage, which also has identical details.
Flat roofs are not really flat, and can have whatever degree of slope we want to design-in. The more slope the better, to eliminate the potential for any standing or pooling water. It’s best to design-in more tolerance to all building systems to allow for certain field-condition variances. And good roof design is not just about slopes and roofing materials. In fact, there are many considerations beyond waterproofing. These considerations include but are not limited to, insulation techniques, ventilation (or not), orientation, drainage management, color, solar gain, penetrations, climate, climate zone, etc.
Corten Siding Sample
We are using Corten steel for north studio siding. However, this sample below is not what we selected. Instead we decided to use the rounded 7/8″ corrugation profile.
For those not familiar with Corten “weathering” steel, it is designed to rust. Corten’s chemistry allows the rust or patina to form a protective layer that then maintains itself without rusting all the way through. It is designed to last many, many years. See these Dezeen articles about weathering steel to see how beautiful it can be. So when you see the rusty siding, it is by design and meant to give a dynamic contrast with adjacent materials – it clads Nan’s creative studio, and thus deserves some pop!
We are really liking this view – however, there is a framing variation that we need to adjust. Who can spot the variance from the design drawings?
Don’t worry, we’ll get it tuned-up!
Rainscreen Siding Delivery
We are doing a two-tone rustic channel cedar siding that arrives prefinished. This below is the lighter of the two tones. We sampled various products and landed on this option. It’s a bit more brown than the renderings, but wood is brown, folks. The grays were also a bit pricey. The darker of the two cedar sidings (not shown) is more in the gray family – dark color disguises the brown tone a bit more. Accordingly, the plan is to let the woods weather, meaning we are going to let them naturally patina (ie, turn gray).
The Workshop, detached Garage, and south house wing are cedar. However, the north mass is corrugated Corten steel siding (see the “parti” diagram at the top of the story – the yellow mass in the diagram is the Corten siding and roofing).
Interior Details Underway
Perforated Steel Screenwall Installation
Entry Hallway Features Unique Materials
We wanted to honor the concept diagram, so it made sense to continue exterior materials inside to realize a cohesive design. For the Cedar sided areas, that was relatively easy. But we weren’t sure we wanted to bring the Corten steel inside. We were afraid it would be a bit rough for interior use (staining clothes and the like) and how would we get it to patina inside. After considering pre-patina and sealers, we ultimately decided on a painted vertical poplar detail as indicated below. We also used this detail for the interior fireplace wrap.
For the concrete floors, we used a lightweight concrete over a vapor barrier and wood structure. More recently on the G BLOC project, we cut control joints to control the crack locations (normal industry expectation). The end-result at G BLOC was a success despite a few obstacles along the way. For Back40House, we and Owner decided to not do any joints, and just let it crack where it cracks.
This decision was informed by the concrete supplier advice. They advised that with so many door openings (primarily in the entry hall), it’s going to crack where it wants to crack, even with control joints. We decided on no control joints and saved a few bucks. We did get more cracking in the hallway. Surprisingly, the larger living spaces are virtually crack-free.
For final finish, we filled the cracks with sealant, ground the finish to a terrazzo look, and provided multi-layer clear-coat for a natural gray finish (we will provide finish photos).
Special Kitchen Wood Veneer
We are loving how the kitchen cabinetry details are coming together. We had some issues with the black island top, but were able to get that replaced. This images show a stainless steel finish for the range, but it was supposed to be a black finish. It looked great in stainless steel, and the wait time for replacement was a long wait. Ultimately, Owner decided to stick with the stainless unit.
Cabinet doors and drawers have touch-latch operation.
Corner Window Views
Corten Siding Patinas
Scuppers Celebrate Precipitation Events
We’ve been doing a lot of new modern projects on wooded sites. For that reason, we have needed to find low-maintenance solutions that divert precipitation while also considering how to handle debris (leaves, branches). One of our more common solutions is the use of open-mouth roof scuppers. Downspouts and debris screens have a tendency to clog. So, we’ll often design solution that eliminates downspouts completely.
The wide opening will also allow leaves and other debris to fall off of the roof. Sure, we’ll still have branches and other debris that needs to be maintained from time-to-time depending on the site. But this solution will allow water to overflow and not collect on the roof, minimizing maintenance requirements.
“You guys are masters of the orthogonal”, Paul Puzzello (13 March 2021)
Please check back – we’ll be adding to the story (design + construction) including finish photography!