There has been a trend toward empty nesters and retirees moving from the suburbs back to the urban amenities and proximities the suburbs do not offer. This house is on a north facing corner lot in a historic neighborhood a short walk from a grocery store, grade school, a community center and the cultural vibrancy of downtown Lawrence, Kansas.
Vacant lots near downtown are expensive but this site was more affordable because it is surrounded by marginal properties. It also had once been a gas station and the old gas tanks were still in the ground and required removal. This triggered a string of EPA requirements to develop and sell the property. It fit studio 804’s mission to develop a brownfield site.
The house is a modern, sustainable 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath 2,000 sf house that features an air tight, highly insulated thermal envelope, efficient light fixtures and appliances as well as a high performance mechanical system that incorporates an energy recovery ventilator as well as mini splits. These passive house design characteristics in combination with a 6kw photovoltaic array on the roof will assure the owner little or no energy costs over a calendar year.
The unassuming gable form runs the length of the narrow corner lot and opens away from the traffic of 13th street while promoting passive solar gain and daylighting through large high performance German manufactured triple paned windows along its south elevation. The standing seam roof, the half round gutters and the minimal trim detailing at the openings are all done to emphasize the visually rich texture of the Alaskan yellow cedar shingles siding and to maximize the impact of the universal building form and its minimal composition.
The plan consists of a large, open living area that is anchored by a sleek kitchen designed for serious cooking as well as entertainment. The ceiling extends all the way to the peak of the gable and the 18” deep walls open to a bioswale that runs the length of the south side of the house to capture storm water and supports a variety of native plants. The rest of house is composed of smaller bedrooms and flexible use spaces as well as the upstairs master bedroom suite that includes a balcony-like office with a view into the living area. With the walls being so thick they were not required to add exterior louvers to control the sun, the walls themselves work as adequate shade during the summer days and the unencumbered windows work better for winter solar gain.
This house is an example of the way housing can be done more responsibly in the future. It uses minimal or no energy to operate, requires minimal resources to maintain, uses materials that required minimal resources to harvest and it offers the owner the opportunity to use alternative modes of transportation and to be part of a long-standing neighborhood and its amenities.
The University of Kansas Department of Architecture invites applications for Studio 804, a comprehensive one-year, fully hands-on design-build experience for students who are at an advanced stage in their studies and committed to the continued research and development of affordable, sustainable and inventive building solutions. Students enrolled in Studio 804 work full time to design and build a new building every year. The widely-published program, under the direction of Distinguished Professor Dan Rockhill, has produced ten LEED Platinum buildings, three of which are Passive House-certified. To learn more, visit studio804.com and architecture. ku.edu/studio804. The university accepts transfers, 4+2 grads, B.Arch grads, M.Arch grads, or professionals — anyone who wants to be a better architect by having had the experience of designing and constructing a sophisticated building in its entirety from the ground up.