A young couple with one child and with contemporary ideas for efficient living with few possessions were the inspiration for the design of this house. They were also explicit in requesting a modern, minimalist esthetic of concrete and glass construction.
Their city lot lent itself very naturally to dividing the house into north side private rooms and south side common space with the long axis of the house running east and west.
Starting with the clients values and requests, the house almost designed itself. In addition to efficient space values, the request for concrete and glass included a desire for sustainable passive and active solar design.
A passive system is dependent on balanced heat generation and heat storage components. In the common living space of the Ha-Smith House, a long south-facing glass wall invites the low winter sun to penetrate deep into the house, warming the interior. Without the concrete mass, however, the winter sun would drive interior temperatures uncomfortably high. Instead, excess ambient heat is drawn into the concrete floor and into the concrete wall that bisects the length of the house. As a result, the interior is comfortably warmed during the day, and excess heat stored in the warmed concrete radiates back into the house on cold winter nights. This exchange reduces the need for mechanical cooling and heating.
In addition to providing thermal storage, the long concrete wall separates the private side of the house from the open common side, and structurally supports the roof. The roof is also supported by a row of concrete columns along the south wall that further absorb excess heat from the sun for release at night.
In summer, the concrete continues to play a critical role in maintaining comfortable temperatures, this time inverting the winter exchange. By opening the house at night, mild Shenandoah Valley breezes cool the warmed concrete so it is ready to absorb heat again the next day, keeping the house cool.
The combination of solar energy and the natural rhythms of day and night heating and cooling not only eliminate consumption of fossil fuels, it keeps the clients constantly in touch with the angle of the earth, the movement of the sun, and the succession of the seasons.
The active solar system is comprised of photovoltaic panels mounted on the south-sloping roof. The roof is angled to maximize the efficiency of electricity generation and is large enough for panels that will generate more power than the house will ever need. The roof design coordinated with the energy systems of the house allows it to operate with a very low carbon footprint.
Living Room to Kitchen
Kitchen to Living Room
Floor Plan Rendering
Floor Plan Drawing