With their three children grown up and out of the house, Nico and Ellen Walsh were ready to downsize from their old Victorian home to a smaller abode better aligned with their environmentally friendly principles.
When the couple spotted Belfast-based design-build firm GO Logic’s LEED Platinum GO Home on the cover of Maine Home and Design Magazine, they instantly fell in love with the modern high-performance design and the possibilities of a nearly net-zero energy house.
After meeting with the GO Logic team, the couple decided to forego a direct replica of the GO Home in favor of a modified version that better suited their needs while retaining the benefits of low maintenance, energy savings, and reduced site impact thanks to the architects’ use of panelized construction.
"At that time, we had been using prefabricated wall panels for a few years already and it was part of our standard construction method," says GO Logic Principal Alan Gibson, who began work on the Cousin Rivers Residence in the summer of 2013. "Building with prefab components allows for a quicker close-in of the structure so that damage from moisture is minimized. The overall project completion timeline is shorter as well, and labor costs are reduced since the panelized components are pre-cut."
Since the Walshes wanted a home conducive to aging in place, the couple opted for a 1,600-square-foot, single-level layout with three mono-pitched volumes—the main house, the screen porch, and the garage—connected via a long covered walkway. Inside, the open floor plan is oriented to take advantage of solar gain with large south-facing windows that frame views of the pine forest.
To meet Passive House standards, the Cousins River Residence features an airtight building envelope, triple-glazed windows with a u-value of 0.16, a heat recovery ventilation system with 90% efficiency, and a 4.6 kW south-facing photovoltaic array on the garage roof that makes the house nearly net-zero energy.
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In the winter, the home is mostly heated by passive solar gain. The concrete floors (treated with a dye to mimic limestone) provide thermal mass, while a small wood-burning stove supplies supplemental heating.
"This home was a second version of the GO Home, so the challenge was to incorporate new elements like a breezeway and screen porch, along with their specific wants for finishes," notes Gibson.
"But all the parts that were challenging also ended up being the most interesting: the way the breezeway connects to the entry and screen porch; the screen porch itself; the higher end finishes such as the kitchen, bookshelf/display, and bedroom casework; plus the tile work in both bathrooms. The way the house is sited to offer solitude to the south is really nice too."
Architect of Record: OPAL
Builder/ General Contractor: GO Logic
Structural Engineer: Albert Putnam Associates