Down to Earth
BUILDING TYPE: New Construction
UNITS AND APPLICATION: Marvin Casement, Awning, Fixed and Direct Glazed windows, Ultimate Inswing French doors
ARCHITECT: Katherine Hillbrand, SALA Architects
The owners thought they wanted their new home to be a bungalow. After consulting with the architect and reviewing her sketches, they fell in love with the design for this home and never looked back.
There were several requests on their wish list – that the building be sustainable, that it feature concrete, that it provide all the benefits of natural light “but not too much light” at different times of day and throughout the seasons. The architect, Katherine Hillbrand of SALA
Architects set stylistic rules aside and composed an original response to themes of time – “Light in a house acts like a clock. You can tell the time of day by where the shadows are” – and space, specifically the landscape and climate of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
A variety of sustainable attributes were incorporated into the home, from in-floor heating reliant on an underground geo-thermal heat source, up to the sod roof that insulated and absorbed heat and discouraged rainwater run-off.
Daylighting was a significant factor in the success of this house. Concrete buttresses and timbers on the east elevation provide both architectural interest and shade from the summer sun. Angled light enters the rooms in cooler months, heating up the concrete floors.
Windows were conceived as interruptions in the concrete walls and applied in a thoughtful variety of ways. Direct glaze windows over the kitchen work counter and next to the fireplace occur more like holes in the wall than windows. Other windows have interior surrounds painted in a dark color to contrast with the concrete, or are inset to add sculptural dimension to the exterior walls. “Marvin® windows and doors provide great opportunities to play with details that can add contrast and interest,” Hillbrand comments. Innovative placement of windows, along with pitched roofs that make rooms feel more intimate in scale, and materials like rusty red Corten steel and the rich hues of Douglas Fir add a distinctive warmth, no matter what the season, to this contemporary northern home.
- Sustainable attributes include fireplaces completely sealed to prevent thermal loss, concrete floors and walls that don’t require paint or sealer, and reclaimed Douglas Fir timber.
- ENERGY STAR® appliances, geothermal heat source, low water volume plumbing fixtures, and skylights and solar tubes that minimize the need for artificial light increase energy efficiency.
- Windows, instead of repeating rhythmically throughout the home in a traditional fashion, are placed unexpectedly and are diverse. Some have minimal exterior profiles, some feature generous clad casing. Some are deeply inset in exterior walls, direct glaze units have minimal surrounds, others include generous interior woodwork.