2011 Recipient | AIA Housing Awards

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North Beach Residence | Notes of Interest

The design brief called for a very low-impact, easy-to-maintain, summer home that provides necessary programmatic functions with minimum distractions from the land and the view. Sustainability, durability and longevity were also considered critical elements of the program.

The home is just over 2,000 square feet and includes a primary residence and two guest suites accessed from the deck outside. It is located on a northwesterly oriented beach fronting the Strait of Georgia, on a site that includes many second-growth douglas firs, a beech grove, and a grassy meadow with good solar exposure. For over a thousand years this site was a winter camp location for the Lummi Indians, and due to its archeological significance no footing excavation could take place on the site. Further, its location in a federally designated flood plain required that the structure be raised off the ground several feet.

The design response situates the structure among the trees directly between the beach and the meadow, with walls of glass opening out to both; no trees were removed. While actual shelter is provided, the experience is of nearly complete openness to the environment, with a minimized structure meant to disappear from view. Steel columns minimize visible structure from the interior, while metal-clad wall elements provide a bold form when seen from the exterior. A matt-slab, poured right over the grass, was utilized to avoid excavation - and the foundation recessed to minimize the footprint. The resulting ‘floating’ form both literally and figuratively responds to the client’s desire for the project to be light on the land.

The combination of a matt-slab on grade and a minimized footprint provides for a minimal disturbance of existing groundwater flow, which is critical in a near-shore habitat. The roof is vegetated, which reduces storm-water runoff. Roof runoff is collected and stored in two 5,000 gallon tanks for use in irrigation and to flush toilets, further reducing stormwater runoff while also reducing potable water use. Potable hot water and hydronic heating are aided by solar collectors on the roof, and PV panels above the vegetable garden provide supplemental electricity. The home is intended for occupancy from May through October, and it is estimated that these solar systems may result in ‘net zero’ electricity use over the course of a full year.

Additional Credits

  • Photo Credit: © Sean Airhart ; © Benjamin Benschnieder

North Beach Residence

Jury Comments

Its sensitivity to the site is paramount: its orientation, the lightness with which it sits on the site, the compact nature of project, and its artful reference to vernacular typologies.

Masterful footprint in siting and sustainability.

2011 AIA Housing Awards Jury

  • Katherine Austin, AIA, Chair
  • Katherine Austin Architect
  • Sebastopol, Calif.
  • Claire Conroy
  • Residential Architecture Magazine
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Mike Jackson, FAIA
  • Historical Preservation Agency
  • State of Illinois
  • Springfield, Ill.
  • Luis Jauregui, AIA
  • Jaurequi, Inc.
  • Austin, Tex.
  • Marilys Nepomechie, FAIA
  • Florida International University Miami
  • Coconut Grove, Fla.

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