Fayetteville, Arkansas, doesn't have a reputation for "going green." Rather, the town has historically garnered recognition for its local beacon, the University of Arkansas. Yet homeowners Myria and A.J. Allen are redefining conventional building practices, beginning with their energy-efficient and environmentally conscious home. Completed in the spring of 2011, the petite 1,368 square foot two-bedroom, two-bath structure sports a broad, wing-like roof, detached carport, clerestory windows and cathedral ceilings. But don’t be deceived by the modern shape; underneath the sharp-cornered dressing lies dozens of meticulous details chosen in the name of sustainability. “We wanted to do our small part to reverse the negative environmental trajectory we see around us,” says Myria. “Essentially we wanted to use our financial resources to create a comfortable home which is consistent with our values.”
Working closely with Skiles Architect, Myria, a Professor in Environmental Communication at the university, and A.J., an employee for the city’s Parks and Recreation department were able to honor their earth-friendly lifestyle while maintaining an economical outlook. Meeting the highest possible Energy Star 5+ certification through the use of a geothermal heat pump, SIPs for roofing, and Ultrex windows with Low-E II glazing, among other eco-friendly choices, the couple’s lowest across-the-board electric bill has been $43, while the highest came in at a modest $69. Aside from the financial boon, the house also proves valuable in education. Myria says she’s taken advantage of her Fayetteville rarity and brought her students in to talk with them about creating ethically responsible yet beautiful living spaces. “Most folks really don’t think outside the box when it comes to building a home—this helps them to do so,” she says.
Proud of her Arkansas oddity, Myria has enjoyed letting people tour the home to raise funds for community schools and churches. She thinks of these as opportunities to help people visualize living in alternative, healthy and beautiful spaces.
Although it serves as one half of the wing-like silhouette, the carport wasn’t detached solely for curb appeal. “The carport versus an attached garage means that paint and chemical fumes don’t follow us into the house every time we go inside,” says Myria.
For aesthetics, durability and ability to recycle, Skiles Architect and the Allens chose exterior cladding of fiber cement board (FCB) and corrugated Galvalume. To add detailing and interest at front and back entries, the FCB was connected with aluminum Fry Reglet FCB panel trims. The profiles created a vertical reveal shadow line while also protecting from moisture penetration at the edges. The Galvalume corrugation was set horizontally to emphasize the lines of the home’s footprint.
A.J. and Myria enjoy sitting on their enclosed porch watching their nine-year-old poodle, Hector, wander up the street looking for neighborhood cats. The butterfly garden in the front yard, hosting 17 attractive plants such as sweetbay magnolia, lavender, and winterberry holly also creates an at-home nature conservatory to view the patterned passersby, all within the confines of their 2,600 square foot lot.
The couple thought carefully about the materials used in the cabinetry and also the installation work. “The same men who did all the building also did the custom-made cabinets; we wanted to keep local people working during the recession versus ordering the cabinetry from out of state or out of the U.S.,” says Myria. The exterior of the cabinets is birch veneer and the staining is clear, allowing the blond wood to blend with the yellow pine ceiling. “We selected birch because of the blond woods, birch is a faster growing species than maple and therefore we considered it to be less environmentally harmful,” says Myria. The track lighting is from Light Waves Concepts and the barstools are from Lacuna Modern.
Myria and A.J. adored the aqua hues and small footprint of the “Tide Pool” tiles from Oceanside Glasstile so they installed them both in the kitchen and master bath. “This was one of only a few places we could find where affordable recycled glass made in the U.S. So much of the glass tile—even the recycled tile—is transported from overseas, which means unnecessary energy is being used in the transportation process,” says Myria.
To make the barn door for Myria’s office, A.J. took leftover wood from the ceilings and crafted a sturdy sliding door. Then they took Bjarnum coat hooks from IKEA, which fold up when not in use and down when company comes with coats. “This works well in a small home with limited cabinet space,” says Myria.
While they thought long and hard before supporting the destruction of living trees in order to create their living space, the couple researched their options to help rationalize their design decision. “The pine beams were sourced in South Arkansas and North Georgia which means we helped support regional employment,” says Myria. “Also, pine is fast-growing and an excellent way to sequester CO2, especially when trees are young.”
The residence features Ultrex windows for their high efficiency and minimal square profile. Made of fiberglass, the Allens felt the manufacturing process had a less harmful impact than some other options. “The upper clerestory windows pull light deep within the space and the interior transoms allow ambient light to continue into the more private spaces,” says Myria.
When it came to the pentagonal scheme of the entire structure, Myria and A.J. hoped to strain some good out of the tilted rooftop. “We have the perfect roof line for rainwater recapture but our city code will not allow us to use that water for anything except the yard. That was a disappointment for us,” says Myria. However, with a long axis running east to west, the site was perfect for a passive solar design or continuous upper clerestory windows and cathedral ceiling to capture the solar heat and daylight. “The function helped evolve the form,” says Myria.