Palo Alto 1 House

I like garden rooms and rooms in gardens, and spaces that frame and become intertwined with the garden and that invite you to move in and out.

Located on a corner lot in Palo Alto and replacing a former abandoned auto body shop, this 2,900 SF, two-story house was designed for a single parent and her two children as a home that from the outset was conceived as a “green demonstration” house through which groups would tour. The design concept was of a simple, wood-sided volume cracked open into two wings, one oriented on the city grid, the other oriented on the solar grid, linked by a glass and steel entry, stair, and bridge element through which the garden is interwoven. The house was envisioned as a literal and metaphoric bridge between commercial/residential and public/private. Photovoltaic panels produce 70% of the house’s electrical needs and were in part financed through a competitive grant awarded by the City of Palo Alto. Designed while at EHDD Architecture in association with Joe Esherick.

Green Features  +/-

  • Sited and shaped to maximize daylight and natural ventilation. Most rooms connect to a garden and/or garden deck.
  • Radiant heating; cooled through natural ventilation and temperature-sensitive exhaust fans. The two-story entry with water feature, coupled with adjacent operable windows, acts as a cooling tower.
  • Photovoltaic panels produce 70% of the electrical requirements.
  • Eco-fire Super Grate integrated into wood-burning fireplace to reduce pollution by 60% and increase radiant heat efficiency by a factor of 3–5.
  • High-performance glass used in doors and windows.
  • 95% of deconstructed material from the auto shop that formerly stood on the site was recycled in the new house and/or salvaged.
  • Reused or recycled materials: carpet from the owner’s previous home was reused, Alaska Yellow Cedar was used for the floor of the master shower, steel stair treads were used for the fireplace surround, and wood concrete forms were recycled.
  • 15% fly ash used in structural concrete mix to replace cementitious materials. Fly ash is a waste product of coal burned to produce electricity which when added to concrete improves strength and water resistance.
  • Structural framing design optimized to reduce lumber use, all wood products either FSC-certified (sustainably harvested), engineered (composite construction made of small pieces of lumber with glue), and/or recycled. Wood flooring where used is bamboo.
  • Cellulose insulation used throughout house — 100% from recycled newspapers — has one of the lowest global-warming impacts of any insulation, with good thermal and acoustical performance.
  • Radiant barrier integrated with roof sheathing — an energy-saving strategy to block 97% of radiant heat at the roof.
  • Low-use water fixtures throughout house. Onsite grey-water collection system uses shower, bath, and laundry waste-water to irrigate the garden.
  • Built-in recycling center with a direct link to city recycling containers on the exterior of the building is practical and makes recycling fun.
  • Low-VOC finishes (paint, glues, stains, and floor finishes) used throughout the house.

Project Team  +/-

  • Builder: Drew Maran Construction
  • Interiors: Sandra Slater (with Cathy Schwabe/EHDD)
  • Kitchen and Water Sculpture: Cheng Design
  • Structural Engineering: GFDS Engineers (Kris Johnson)
  • Landscape Design: The Office of Cheryl Barton
  • Lighting: Axiom Design
  • Photography: David Wakely

Publications and News  +/-

  • Palo Alto 1 House featured as part of a July 11, 2012, tour of four private homes that lend ambiance to the rich heritage of San Francisco South Bay/Peninsula living. Hosted by the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.