Monday, December 15, 2008

RainShine House Atlanta Introduction

The RainShine house is a two-story, 2800-square foot, three-bedroom, 3 ½ bath home located in Decatur, Georgia on a 1/3 acre infill lot and currently under construction. Homes in the surrounding single-family neighborhood are of mixed vintage ranging primarily from the 1920’s to post war. Located 1 1/2 blocks from downtown Decatur, RainShine is in a very walkable neighborhood convenient to shopping, great restaurants, excellent transportation 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), a sewer easement transversing the site and 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 of the home are tightly defined within these limitations.

RainShine is contemporary in design and is named for key design features. The living room, dining, kitchen and guest bedrooms are sheltered by a unique 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 it’s inverted gable, simplifies rainwater collection, eliminates extensive gutter and downspout systems and the associated maintenance headaches common in conventional gabled or hip roofed homes.

Occupying the front of the lot is the entrance foyer and a two-story living room overlooked by a sleeping loft and two guest bedrooms. Dining room and kitchen flow in an open manner to the living room. The single-level master suite with his and hers baths extends to the more private rear of the lot and shares with the living area a large, covered south-facing deck. 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. There is a full semi-conditioned utility basement containing all systems. A drive consisting of wheel strips of site salvaged brick borders the north property line. Since automotive accomodations are not a major consideration in the owner’s lives, no garage was required. However, a bike rack does terminate the drive.

The home features commercial-grade thermally broken aluminum storefront with large expanses of glass and operable windows strategically located for natural ventilation. Operable clerestory windows are remotely controlled and are designed to create a stack effect allowing extended natural ventilation periods during the spring and fall without reliance on hvac systems. 

Interior spaces are visually demised and defined by “thick walls” containing storage, book shelves, niches, pass-throughs, closets, audio visual equipment, systems, etc. Except for certain utility areas, interior walls stop short of ceilings and are topped by glazing systems thus visually completing the floating roof effect and enhancing distribution of daylight refracting from the clerestory light shelves. Interior materials and finishes are VOC free and many were, in the spirit of reducing the home’s carbon footpring, selected for recycled content, local manufacture or were site or locally salvaged. For example, the wood floors, comprising over 90% of the floor area, are sawn from locally salvaged old growth heart pine. The nine foot high exterior doors are fabricated from the same material.

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