Tuesday, February 12, 2013


An architect's work is very solitary, but our knowledge should be expansive. We speak the abstract language of architecture, but we also have to understand the work of the consultants who help make the building perform - the builder, the structural, civil, and mechanical engineers, the water systems expert, and the landscape architect. These consultants play a critical role in the design and construction of a project, and together with the client and architect, become a part of the Team. Although our project is a small, 2,000 s.f. house, each team member will play a critical role in the vision of our client.

Vision. It's a loaded word. The state of seeing, foresight, dreams, desires, etc. Many of these words refer to the future, to looking forward. And this is really what residential architecture can be about - how do you live now, how do you project yourself living in 5, 10, 40 years? How do you design a house which is perfect to live in now, and will be perfect to live in 40 years later? This can a long discussion, which eventually will be expanded upon. For now, I'll focus on one aspect of the client's vision - sustainability.

The client's foremost parameter for her new house is that it will exceed zero net energy - hence referred to as the PLUShouse (discussion of acronym at a later post). The house will have photovoltaic panels for power, rainwater and storm water collection systems, gray water reuse, and hydronic heat. Water storage tanks will be either buried on the site or located in the garage. Pumps will be remote from the house for noise reduction, as the client is a musician and acoustics is an important part of the design. The landscape will be modernist in design, drought resistant and subtle. The structure of the building is complex (but not complicated), and the construction will be a mechanical lock, where there is an interlocking relationship between form, detailing, and structure.

Building a team is of great importance, and in choosing consultants to become part of the team we looked for people whose work we admire, but also for people passionate about our vision of sustainability. And we found the perfect team PLUS: Shades of Green (landscape architect), Drew Maran (builder), Peter Yu, (structural engineer) Josiah Cain, (Design Ecology -water systems), and David Knight, (Monterey Energy Group -mechanical engineer).

Go Team!

Lindy Small

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