Architecture MondayApril 20, 2015
This is a very cool house.
Despite the fact it is in a merciless desert.
This is one of my favourite examples of the idea of “Designing from Intentions”, because it achieves what it sets out to do far better than most, while also being a better design than most. Many homes touted as “green” these days are rather indistinguishable from other homes, following the same basic concept and banal typology of any subdivision home found across the entire continent, regardless of the climactic condition at the site. With extra insulation, more efficient HVAC systems, and maybe a bit of PV, they achieve 20-30% better performance.
But here, this building springs from a starting point that says: if I were to build a house in a DESERT, what would I want? What would make it work? What would make it awesome to live in?
The answer crafted by architect Lloyd Russel was as simple as can be. To protect from the sun, you need shade. And so, the house sits under an independent shade structure (one that cost less than most PV systems), separated by a gap that allows for breezes to carry heat away. The house underneath sits on a thick concrete slab that acts as a giant thermal mass, absorbing any heat that comes in during the day, and sending it out as welcome warmth during the much cooler nights. With large overhangs from the shade structure, the house can manage to have huge expanses of glass, looking out onto the gorgeous landscape.
By zoning code, the house had to have an Air Conditioner included. The owners have never used it. Even in the 45~C summertime, the house inside stays around 26~C at the worst.
We have a house that, therefore, is 100% more efficient in its cooling. (And, fantastically, it works equally well in the snows of winter…)
And we have a house that is an amazing experience to live in. Imagine getting up in the morning, walking out into your kitchen, and getting a large panorama of the desert landscape ablaze in the rising sun.
It’s simplicity, its brilliance, and its mightyfine architecture, architecture that was designed from the primordial, by intent, and that treats the world and its inhabitants right.