Palo Alto 3 House

My design process follows the one I learned from Joe Esherick — welcoming the client at one’s shoulder as a participant in the process. One begins with a blank sheet of paper and draws in front of the client, shaping ideas; back in the studio, the ideas are refined — brought back to the meeting table, overlaid with more paper as ideas are tested. The design gradually takes form.

Designed with a three-part focus of private, public, and family, this 5,500 SF Certified Green Point Rated two-story house + guest unit, set over a partial basement, sits midblock on a small street in Palo Alto. The house massing is broken into smaller traditional forms clad in natural-wood siding to respond to the pattern, scale, and spirit of the neighborhood and local vernacular. The modern, light-filled interior is organized loosely into two wings, linked by an entry and stair element, to which are added or subtracted a play of one- and two-story forms. These offer shade, capture light, create views, provide garden spaces, and/or extend and enrich the spaces within. The desire to interweave the gardens and the house so as to create and invite opportunities for a visual and physical connection guided the design process. The materials and details, the largely edible landscape, the spaces and elementsinside and outinvite play, discovery, humor, and delight; and, at the same time, have a calm, quiet simplicity that allows for comfortable living that restores.

Green Features  +/-

  • Near net-zero design goals. Finished project achieves zero energy building status through 100% purchase of offsite-generated renewable energy.
  • Build It Green Certified: 115 points required, 268 points targeted, 250 points achieved.
  • Existing house including all concrete on the lot was deconstructed and the materials were recycled.
  • House is sited and shaped to optimize daylighting and natural ventilation. High-efficiency glazing used in windows and doors.
  • Radiant heating in all floors and radiant cooling in the first- and second-floor ceiling is powered by highly efficient air-to-water heat pump which transforms the energy embodied in outside air (a sustainable renewable source) into usable heat and transfers it to the house through a heat exchanger.
  • Heat recovery ventilators provide continuous low-level, filtered, outside-air ventilation (both supply and exhaust) throughout the year. Well-insulated buildings with radiant heat can experience stale air during the heating season when windows are typically kept closed to retain building warmth.
  • Whole-house fan and motorized windows tied to thermostat and clock are used for night-flush cooling and ventilation during warm months. The cooling narrative used to program the controls draws on ventilation first and then triggers the radiant cooling system.
  • Grey-water system collects shower and washing machine wastewater and directs it towards fruit trees.
  • Low-water-use and high-efficiency plumbing fixtures including dual-flush toilets are used.
  • On-demand hot water system with heat sensor at furthest fixture from boiler to turn off the pump when the supply line has reached temperature. A motion sensor in each room with plumbing fixtures restarts the pump when the room is first occupied.
  • Solar panels to preheat water linked to on-demand hot water heater.
  • Pre-wired for 2.4 Kw photovoltaic system. This will be installed when the PV panels become more efficientthe roof shading from the trees combined with the low efficiency of existing panels did not make this cost-effective to install during construction.
  • Lighting design uses energy-efficient interior lighting and shielded/protected low-wattage exterior fixtures to reduce night-sky pollution.
  • Motorized shades are integrated with lighting controls and the climate control system for sun shading and privacy.
  • Minimum 25% fly ash is used in all concrete to replace cementitious materials in the house and where used in the landscape. Fly ash is a waste product of coal burned to produce electricity which when added to concrete improves strength and water resistance.
  • Insulation: High R-value, low-emitting, high-recycled content. Insulation includes: closed and open cell spray foam, wet spray cellulose and dry cotton batt made of blue jeans.
  • FSC-certified, engineered, or rapidly renewable wood is used throughout the house: 100% framing, siding, cabinets, and flooring, 90% for panel products.
  • Rain screen detailing for wood siding assembly using Western Red Cedar. The siding is spaced off of the wall surface with ventilation at the top and bottom to create an air cavity. This allows air to flow behind the siding and permits moisture, which penetrates most wall materials, to flow down the back of the siding and out the bottom. The air inside the cavity creates a thermal buffer transition that helps with both cooling and heating the house. The air also allows moisture at the back of the wood to dry, which prevents mildew and increases the life span of both the wood and the finish.
  • Zero, low-VOC, or water-based finishes are used for most paints, stains, and construction adhesives.
  • Exposed concrete in public areas provides thermal mass. Permethrin-free wool carpet and pad where carpet is used. Bamboo flooring where wood flooring is used. Rubber flooring used in laundry.
  • Energy Star appliances are used throughout.
  • Built-in recycling centers in mudroom and kitchen with a direct recycling chute from the second-floor study to the first-floor kitchen.
  • Existing trees on the site, along the street and on adjacent lots, provide shading from the western sun and filtered light from the east and south.
  • The plantings are a combination of an edible landscapefruit trees, berry bushes, and herb and vegetable bedsnative and/or low-water-use plantings with a defined lawn area for children’s play.
  • Permeable paving is used in built garden spaces and at grade paving is spaced with planting strips, a green roof is used at the second floor deck, and a planted green wall is used in the below-grade patio so that along with site re-grading the maximum amount of rainfall can be absorbed on-site.
  • Green roof at second-floor deck space provides good thermal buffer, captures rain water, and connects interior to garden.

Project Team  +/-

  • Builder: Drew Maran Construction
  • Interior Colors and Materials: Judith Paquette with Cathy Schwabe Architecture
  • Interior Design: John Lum Architecture
  • Furnishings: Kathy Bloodworth Interior Design
  • Structural Engineering: Ingraham DeJesse Engineers (Nellie Ingraham)
  • Landscape Architecture: Arterra LLP (Vera Gates)
  • Lighting Design: Alice Prussin Lighting Design
  • Mechanical Design: Recurve (Sustainable Spaces)

Publications and News  +/-