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Sustainable Urban Villa

Wolf Architects, Inc.

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  • Gary Wolf

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3,460 sq. feet


Design Awards

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Project Description

This LEED-Silver private residence deserves an award because of its thoughtful sustainable design approach for a very small urban site, and for its expression of that sustainability by means of natural materials and a garden setting. While innovative sustainable architecture often emphasizes a high-tech appearance, using artificial materials, extensive glazing and visible environmental control systems, in this case the architects instead have explored a different design direction. They have clad the building with several different types of wood, all of it milled from reclaimed lumber. (Much of this material was originally harvested over a century ago.) Aside from the high quality and durability of this siding, its use—together with the green roofs, planters, green wall, and garden—presents the image of a perhaps traditional wood house in a garden setting, which has been reconceived or re-invented for sustainability. Therefore we call this house a “sustainable urban villa.” As noted elsewhere, the house features solar voltaic panels on the highest roof, a ground-source geothermal system, 100% permeable ground surfaces, underground recharger chambers, and densely insulated exterior walls and roofs. The emphasis on sustainability and nature continues inside the house, with marble and slate quarried in New England as primary materials, and heart-pine flooring throughout which was milled from reclaimed heavy timber beams. The use of a birch-bark column in the entry vestibule and laser-cut leaf forms in sliding panels on the first floor presents a poetic statement about the role of nature in the lives of the inhabitants, and in a sustainable world.
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