Design Development

At the end of the fall semester, the studio presented its design work to several industry professionals. After some tough criticism and thoughtful discussion, we knew that there was still work to be done. Contemplating whether the studio should work out the kinks of the design or undergo a complete redesign, we chose the latter. During this phase, we sketched out and discussed our ideas, while considering the feedback we received at our presentation. Ultimately, our project turned out even better because we went through this redesign process.

The concept for our new design is focused on three guiding principles: central core; public vs. private space; and hierarchy. Early on we recognized that a central core within the design was important to the familial connections that are made at home. This core contains the kitchen, living and dining room spaces; all other spaces rely on this public core, encouraging connection throughout the household.

While the public core allows for any size of gatherings, there is a great need for personal space. Few homes are properly designed to balance the psychological needs of the user between active gathering and peaceful solace. This necessity for balance especially rings true in a compact home. A clear divide between the expansive public and comfortable private space means everyone can feel relaxed in their home.

Living in a smaller town often means a greater reliance on the home as a social and active space. Whether they are sitting on the porch, grilling, watching the kids play; citizens of St. John value their backyards and the importance they have to their families. Creating a hierarchy between the home and outdoor space, while providing a clear connection to their yards means they can interact with the indoors and outdoors no matter the activity.

During the design process we also considered different sustainable practices, energy efficient systems, and daylighting. The St. John Net Positive prototype has a high-performing envelope reducing heating and cooling loads significantly throughout the year, and during the swing seasons (spring and fall) it will frequently be comfortable without heating and cooling. For that matter, the loads for the HVAC system are much lower, making the high efficiency system more affordable, reducing the chances of discomfort, and allowing passive strategies like winter sun and natural ventilation to do more work to keep occupants comfortable. Due to daylight and high efficiency LED lighting fixtures, lighting energy use is very low. Most of the energy used by the home will be electric appliances and tankless water heating. In summary, this home will use a fraction of the energy of a typical home. Through overall efficiency and passive design, it becomes easy to offset the home’s annual energy use with a relatively modest PV array that fits neatly on the roof and can be mortgaged with the house.

Integral to this design is the custom casework elements that define the edges of the central core. Since the footprint of the home is small, we were challenged with providing storage in a creative and space-saving way. We strived to provide places for functional storage and display space. Our solution was to integrate the casework as an element that divides space. Instead of having a traditional wall separate the living space from a bedroom, we designed casework modules that act as storage, display space, and a wall.

The result of our efforts is a prototype home that carefully considers site, sustainable design, affordability, and the psychological needs of the family. We hope that this prototype ca be a precedent for future pre-fabricated, affordable, efficient homes.

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