High Priority Energy Efficiency
This home is headed to net-zero energy, with very little impact on its site.
Our clients always have some ideas for what they want in their home, but rarely do they have the clarity and determination of the homeowners who came to us with this stunning site on the coast of Rhode Island. They wanted a new home with little environmental impact, without sacrificing style, comfort, or livability. They wanted a home that would celebrate the views, and would stand up to the harsh coastal environment without endless maintenance demands. On the site was a house from the 1970s of questionable value beyond being well-sited to capture views and solar gain. The structure of the existing house wouldn’t support our new design, but we could reuse the foundation, which allowed us to avoid excavation and capture the embodied energy of the existing concrete. Working closely with the owners, who had refined aesthetic preferences from midcentury modern to traditional coastal style, we began designing the house, staying keenly focused on creating a super-insulated and airtight building assembly with high-performance windows and doors. We specified energy-efficient systems, including heating, cooling, and hot water; an ERV for ventilation; and LED lighting. At every turn, we kept four priorities in mind: low site impact, a low-maintenance exterior, getting to zero energy, and maximizing the views with an open plan and well-placed windows.
The house was built on the foundation of an existing home. The poured concrete foundation walls and footings were in good shape, but the existing basement slab was removed to allow for new interior footings, subslab insulation, and vapor and air barriers. Reusing the foundation reduced site impact on the environmentally sensitive shoreline lot, but required the new design to comply with the existing square 42-ft. by 42-ft. footprint. The north side of the house was extended with a 3-ft. cantilever, but otherwise held…