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A young family desired a creative, organic and protracted process in designing their new home on wooded, triangular lot in Ipswich, Massachusetts. They came in with contemporary ideas of living, including flexibility of use and the potential to phase construction of different structures about the lot over time as their 3 boys grew. Modular/ panelized construction, and cost-efficient methods of building a net-zero energy home would need to be considered. The design would be contemporary in form and feel but need to fit into a classic New England context, both in terms of materials and durability. Essential seeds of inspiration were the notions of "surprise and delight" throughout.


The design consists of a three-story mass, composed mostly of bedrooms and baths intersecting on the bottom floor with a cross axis of public living spaces. This axis extrudes out to an over-sized covered porch, open to the south and west, which serves as the connector to the 2-story garage with flex-space (guest house/play quarters/yoga studio) above. A floor-to-ceiling ribbon of glass wraps the south and west walls of the lower level, bringing in an abundance of natural light and connecting the entire, open plan to the yard beyond. The entire top floor is the master suite, including an outdoor deck with shower. The second floor has extra height to accommodate a variety of multi-level scenarios in the kids' bedrooms. Materials combine stained cedar shingles and significant glass with planar panel siding and exposed timbers.

In Town

This house sits within walking distance of many local amenities, including being directly across the street from the Elementary School and having a public bus stop at the end of the block.

Renewable Materials

Many of the materials to be used in this house are made from recycled content, are environmentally friendly or come from local sources. Low toxicity will be demanded of all materials, adhesives and sealants in this air-tight home.

Budget / Economy

Using panelization techniques wherever possible, this unique home strives to achieve "net-zero ready" status for around $200/sf of finished space.

Sustainable Landscape

The house is sited to minimize impact on the land and preserve as much existing trees as possible. A conservation easement o the southwest is respected.

Energy Efficient

12" thick double stud walls and a 16" dense-packed roof cavity will provide a continuous R-40 to R-60 thermal envelope around the entire house. High performance, triple glazed windows are specified. As modeled by Passive House software this house, supplemented by a propane fireplace, will need no more than a few small runs of electric resistance baseboard and air-source heat pumps to heat it, even on the coldest days of winter. No furnace will be required.

Renewable Power

A 6 kw solar PV array will offset the electricity demand and a solar thermal hot water system will provide all hot water to the house. The goal is to achieve net-zero energy over the course of a year.