The GREENvilleHOUSE effect

Tracking the sun, this house stretches away from its own shadow

by James 31 December 2009
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    The GREENvilleHOUSE, located on three acres of flat land in the coastal plain of North Carolina, is the home of a young and growing family. The owner’s desire to create a special place was parallel to their goal of contributing to and raising the standards of typical home construction. The design strategies were driven by technologically advanced systems, sensitive building placement, and site orientation allowing the house to take on an active and positive role in the natural processes of the site.

    The GREENvilleHOUSE is similar in scale to the adjacent homes, but environmental and massing strategies clearly set it apart from its neighbours. Private spaces fill narrow bars that extend into the landscape creating courtyards, capturing natural light, and allowing for cross ventilation while maximising solar access. Photovoltaic panels positioned at the end of each bar work in concert to provide southern summer shading. These bars intersect to create a central public volume. Filled with kitchen, dining, and living spaces, the volume is open to the second story and continuous balcony above. The public functions of the volume also extend to exterior living spaces surrounded by panoramic views of native pine forests.

    Non-invasive plants, selected for their native characteristics and drought tolerance, limit the quantity of water required for irrigation. Operating at a fraction of the normal distribution rates of standard irrigation systems, portions of the landscape utilise a drip-irrigation system supplied by captured rainwater and stored in an underground cistern.

    Working with the North Carolina Solar Center and Southern Energy Management various systems were developed and integrated to reduce energy load and water consumption to attain a projected LEED for Homes Silver rating. The building’s orientation maximises the potential of the photovoltaic technology while capturing breezes to reduce the overall load on the geothermal system. Perforated screens shade windows while casting patterned shadows across the building’s face and interior spaces. The screens offer a constructed aesthetic and functional replacement for the shade that trees once provided.This house was both designed and constructed by Tonic Design.

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