For years, Michael Ermann, an architecture professor at Virginia Tech, has been pursuing a way to meld transparency and insulation within a design. Having explored bubble wrap as one option to achieve this, he put the material to the test in the gut renovation of his brick colonial house in Blacksburg, Virginia.
The first step in the floating dining room addition was constructing "sandwich panels", which Ermann has named "Fiz." They work by layering UV-resistant bubble wrap—treated to handle sunlight breakdown and yellowing—between blankets of glass. These translucent panels serve as the dining room walls, "[providing] both a measure of daylight and a measure of insulation," Ermann explains. In contrast to the average window, Fiz retains heat, even on cold winter nights.
Typically, insulation panels are opaque and prevent morning light from adequately permeating living spaces. The translucent alternative in Ermann’s dining room, however, allows the space to glow with warmth and dynamic light, which shifts over the course of the day. Describing his new dining room Ermann muses: "The quality of light proved to be so stunning. Every time I walk past the room, it looks different."
To usher in more daylight in other parts of the home and preserve winter heat, Ermann again used Fiz for the living room’s thermal window shutters. "Before going to bed in the wintertime," he explains, "I slide the factory-assembled bubble wrap ‘night insulation’ in front of the windows and door until it seals, and the result is five times the insulation value of the window alone."
Ermann’s home renovation focused on "volume subtractions [to] bring in daylight, promote views, and make places for building systems and storage." In the kitchen, for example, lives a "wheelbarrow" island, designed to be moved and stored as needed. In the same room, panhandles and insets inspired by LA artist Patrick Wilson accent full-height cabinetry.
Detail was also applied to the two designs for door pulls that are featured in the home. One echoes the Mobius strip—a form in mathematics that twists into a cylinder—while the other calls to mind the door hardware of Olson Kundig.
Builder of Record: Atmosphere Builders
Structural Engineer of Record: Jordan Truesdell, Truesdell Engineering
Landscape Designer of Record: Weber Analytics
Cabinetry Designer of Record: Oakley Friend
Other Companies of Record: Conrad Lankford, Glass Dynamics ; B&M Sheet Metal; Blue Ridge Fabricators; Star City Erectors
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