The Residences at 1012 Druid Avenue, Charlottesville, Va.

These homes are certified Health Houses by the American Lung Association. They are also Energy Star rated and Earth Craft Homes. Simplicity was the concept leading us to this energy efficient design. Our concept was to maximize the open living area so that space use was highly efficient. The first way to maximize efficiency was to limit the size (and thus the energy use) of the house.

The envelope configuration was all about simplicity as well. While the house has many varied spaces and vistas, the mass of the house itself is a simple box. Seams in the envelope were minimized. Given the continuous insulation and sealant at openings/joints in the envelope, there is very little air infiltration. This, together with the assembly R-values, produces a very energy efficient envelope.

With the house’s envelope being so tight we were especially concerned with indoor air quality. Our mechanical system brings in a measured supply of outdoor air that is filtered and dehumidified by a whole house dehumidifier. The mechanical system meets filter MERV ratings and duct leakage amounts required, and the interior components meet the American Lung Association “Health House” guidelines for indoor air quality. This means that off gassing from materials/adhesives and volatile organic compounds in paints, setting beds, and finishes are within these guidelines.

The house’s assemblies and components were chosen for their energy efficiency and constructability. Most of the envelope is made of factory built, panelized components. This makes for a very continuous envelope and cost effectiveness was realized in how quickly and precisely the panels could be installed. We chose aluminum clad wood windows and exterior doors for their energy performance, durability and longevity. The homes are not overly glazed, balancing the need for glass against the need for energy efficiency. In addition to taking advantage of the views, exterior windows and skylights were positioned to give balanced and glare-free interior day-lighting, minimizing the need for artificial lighting. In aiming toward uncomplicated design, we discovered high energy performance and efficient living spaces. The livability of the home is found in both its spatial qualities and in it’s, often, hidden components that leverage its environmental quality and energy performance.

The homes were designed to be a part of both a neighborhood and a natural site. With 5 homes together in one planned unit development we were able to take advantage of the grouping of the homes and the efficiency of sharing of common areas. Our storm water runoff is minimized, and we utilize a biofilter in the common area both as a “wild area” focal point for the residents and for improving the quality (and timed quantity) of our runoff.

The homes themselves were situated on the brow of the hill to take advantage of: 1. both maximum earth sheltering and day lighting for the lower floor, 2. maximum access to views, both down over the Moore’s Creek valley below and to the south Carter’s mountain and west to the Ragged Mountains, and 3. prevailing breezes through the houses and across the courtyards and decks. The main glazed wall of the homes was angled toward the south to take advantage of passive low angled solar access in the winter. With the coated glazing, the overhangs and added solar shades over the main south glazing, solar heat gain is virtually eliminated through these windows on summer days. Clear glazing on the east is non-existent to maintain the privacy of the adjacent neighbor’s courtyard or deck. These private exterior spaces are designed to provide entry spaces and act as another room for the homes, albeit outside. We found inspiration for these side entry spaces in the configuration of some of the historic side porch houses of Charleston, South Carolina. These shady in-between spaces function both to provide a cool respite for the occupants on a hot day, and a prospect to the neighborhood beyond.