Built at the edge of a cliff on the escarpment of the Connecticut River, the project offered a unique opportunity for an Architect / Interior Designer couple to showcase their design convictions and to test their approach to sustainability. The challenge was to preserve the character of the site with its severe slopes and massive rock outcroppings.
The house combines active and passive strategies to come as close as possible to net zero energy use. Passive strategies begin with the site planning. The house has been sited to take the maximum advantage of its solar orientation, with its main facades oriented to the south and west. This is also the direction of the view. To take maximum advantage of the view, large windows have been placed on these facades. The amount of glass had to be dealt with since it endangered the energy efficiency of the house. To counteract that, sun shading finns (Brise-soleil) were added, their depth carefully calculated to admit the sun in the winter and keep it out in the summer. These finns have become the main aesthetic feature of the house. All of the exterior walls and roofs of the house have been heavily insulated using a combination of various types of insulation so as to achieve the maximum affect. Also, all of the windows are triple-glazed. The result is a thermal envelope that had an immediate payback by reducing the size of the heating system by over 60 percent and the air-conditioning system by 50 percent.
Active strategies include the installation of a 10KW photovoltaic solar system that creates much of the electric power used in the house, and a geothermal system to provide the heating and air-conditioning.