Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of AECCafe.com, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.
The RainShine House in Decatur, Georgia by Robert M. Cain (designed using ArchiCAD)
March 6th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Robert M. Cain
The FIRST modernist LEED Platinum residence in the Southeastern United States
The RainShine house is a two-story, 2800-square foot, three-bedroom, 3½-bath home located in Decatur, Georgia on a 1/3-acre infill lot. Homes in the surrounding single-family neighborhood are of mixed vintage and style ranging from the late 1920’s to present, Tudor cottage to post war saltbox to ranch. Located 1 ½ blocks from downtown Decatur, RainShine is in a very walkable neighborhood convenient to shopping, great restaurants, excellent transit options, many other community resources and a remarkable diversity of cultural opportunities.
The project site was specifically selected to allow the owners to pursue their preferred lifestyle of walking, biking and using mass transit in their day-to-day lives. For them, minimizing their dependency on personal automobiles will result in fewer car trips and thus contribute to less pollution, congestion, less use of imported oil, and a healthier, more community-oriented lifestyle. RainShine, however, does occupy a challenging 1/3- acre site.
Although the property is within sight of the subcontinental divide, buildable area is constrained by a man made flood plain (resulting from poor municipal culvert design and a huge nearby asphalt church parking lot with inadequate runoff controls), stream buffer requirements and a sewer easement transversing the site as well as the usual residential zoning setbacks. These factors result in a trapezoidal shaped 3,778 square foot area available for building. The house, porches and decks are thus tightly defined within these limitations but take advantage by orienting to the open space afforded through the easement and buffer.
RainShine is named for key design features. The living room, dining, kitchen and guest bedrooms are sheltered by a butterfly roof structured with steel beams spanned by exposed 1 ½” tongue-and-groove wood decking. The roof floats above continuous clerestories allowing light to flood into the interior. Light shelves around the clerestory sills bounce and diffuse natural light throughout the interior. The butterfly roof is designed to capture rainfall (Rain) for a rainharvest system located in the basement and is oriented to maximize southern exposure for a roof mounted photovoltaic system (Shine). The butterfly design, with its inverted gable, simplifies rainwater collection, eliminates extensive gutter and downspout systems and associated maintenance headaches.
Occupying the front of the lot is the entrance foyer and a two-story living room overlooked by a study and two guest bedrooms. Dining room and kitchen flow in an open manner to the living room. The single-level master suite extends to the more private rear of the lot and shares a large, covered south-facing deck with the living area. A screened porch cantilevers off the living room, engages the street and in conjunction with the living room serve to screen the private rear portion of the site. Since automotive accommodations are not a major consideration in the owner’s lives, no garage was required.
Sustainability goals were paramount and achieved through energy efficient systems such as natural ventilation, geothermal heat pumps, LED lighting and energy recovery ventilation. Additional features: passive solar design features and devices, high efficiency appliances, extensive use of environmentally preferable/high durability/salvaged/recycled/reclaimed materials, no VOC paints and sealants, no irrigation, drought tolerant native species landscaping and (through incorporation of rain garden and rainharvest systems) post project runoff equivalent to a woodland state.
“The program for our house was detailed and has been gloriously met. Our architect has designed and built a house that is everything we think a house should be, and more: beautiful, timeless, light-hearted, comfortable, and tailored to our needs. Chuck and I first and foremost asked for lots of light (for Florida native Chuck) and green features (for Mary). “Cross-ventilation” is a family mantra so we also asked for that at the start. The green features I sought are everywhere: in the design, systems, and the materials. Our cross-ventilation request was fulfilled so well that a much-sought-after LEED innovative credit was awarded for the design solution. Architecturally, this is a house that delights. Every room seems the right size and shape. The windows blur the line between inside and out. It is 15 feet from one neighbor but, due to the siting and the design, it feels like a house in the woods. It is highly functional, flexible, ship-shape, and cheerful. The colors are perfection. We conclude this project with immense satisfaction at watching the practice of great architecture and its amalgam of technical necessities and art. We conclude this project with the highest possible regard for our architect.”
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