Responding to the mild climate of Southern California as well as to its modern architectural heritage, the Dwell House features design principles and construction techniques that have evolved from unique opportunities for outdoor living. Architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Irving Gill, and Rudolph Schindler, each developed domestic spaces to exploit the potential for outdoor living. The Dwell House seizes this opportunity as well. Fundamental to the conception of the house is the notion of the covered porch, which blurs the boundaries between inside and outside. As a general strategy, design elements were developed to lengthen and extend the space as well as take advantage of opportunities for outdoor living. As a result of a beneficent climate, the residence can effectively increase the limited space it has to occupy.
The house is organized to take maximum advantage of the unique characteristics of the site. The spiral ‘L’ shape organization divides the home into two distinct zones. The public living zone is open and filled with natural light, placed slightly parallel to the street to take full advantage of spectacular views to the north while allowing the space to open to the private hillside on the south side of the building.
The private areas of the house are positioned perpendicular to the street moving up the hill to closely follow the natural topography of the site. This preserves privacy while reducing the need for extensive retaining walls. Only the carport and entry are carved into the site, requiring retaining walls. Moving up the hill and located at the end of the private zone is the multi-purpose family playroom/office/den area. At this point the private zone turns 170 degrees and climbs horizontally back over the homes private and public zone towards Croyden Lane, culminating at the master bed, which captures panoramic views to the north.
Dwell House II is a finely sculpted aesthetic object. However, primary emphasis is given to its spatial effects. The architecture is broadly conceived as spatial experience embodying ideals about living. There is an ease of circulation and a conscientious attitude about material and spatial consumption. Movement and depth are paramount. An unfettered movement from inside to outside cultivates an atmosphere of leisure without losing a sense of boundary or distinction.
The immaterial is as palpable as the material—the potency of void as impressive as the necessity of solid. Mass plays a formative role in the choreography of a continuous flow of space; space flows through and around objects.
Environmental Systems Flow
Sustainability has much to do with common sense planning and orientation. Dwell House II is planned and sited to maximize passive solar heating and cooling. The actual living space is a solar collector, heat absorber and distribution system. South facing glass admits solar energy into the house where it strikes directly and indirectly thermal mass materials in the house such as masonry floors and walls. The direct gain system will utilize 60 - 75% of the sun's energy striking the windows. The vertical radiators located just inside the glass on the southern facade act as water containers inside the house to store heat. The heated water is used for general space heating and the hot water needs of the house. A single solar panel provides hot water directly from the sun directly to the house through a natural gas fired hot water heater. On days when the sun is unable to meet demand the hot water heater provides backup hot water.
Because the house is highly insulated and oriented to maximize daylighting, heating and cooling the demand for electricity will be lower than normal. The state of California allows "net metering" which allows a user to generate a utility credit for any power supplied to the grid. In essence, the meter is allowed to spin in reverse when excess generated by the solar panels are not used, therefore eliminating the need for storage batteries. The elimination of battery storage coupled with the state of California solar rebate program can make the system pay for itself in less than ten years.
Heating and Cooling
Dwell House II incorporated a simple common sense, yet innovative approach towards whole house heating. Using off the shelf technologies in a creative and thoughtful hybrid system this approach set a new standard for innovation is sustainable heating and cooling. The house is divided into two thermal zones. The living zone utilizes freestanding radiators for heating and relies on ample natural ventilation and shading for cooling. The radiators are placed vertically along the southern edge of the living space within very close proximity to the glass. Their positioning serves a dual purpose allowing the sun to provide direct heat to the radiators while providing a delicate screen like brise-soleil reducing the effects of the sun's glare. The radiators are aesthetically pleasing and simple. There are no moving parts making it virtually maintenance free. They are approximately 2” deep, 20” wide and 8 feet tall and are spaced 5 feet apart horizontally along the southern glass. The patterning provides uniform heat and is integrated to become part of the formal composition of the house. The private zone utilizes a highly efficient ground source heat pump. According to the Environmental Protection Agency geothermal exchange is the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning system available. This marvelous technology relies primarily on the Earth’s natural thermal energy, a renewable resource, to heat or cool the house. The only additional energy the geothermal exchange system will require is a small amount of electricity to concentrate what Mother Nature provides and then to circulate the high-quality heating and cooling. Because the private zones of the house are compact and highly insulated this area will require minimum heating and cooling, promoting even greater efficiency.
Recently accepted revisions to ASHRAE Standard 55 thermal environmental conditions for human occupancy include a new adaptive comfort standard that allows warmer indoor temperatures for naturally ventilated buildings during summer and in warmer climate zones. According to acclaimed Mechanical Engineer Alan Locke of IBE Consulting Engineers, Dwell House II is so well thought out in terms of thermal comfort that the home should require only a handful of days of cooling over an entire year.
The DWELL HOUSE II finish materials and colors are based on a natural palette of plant material found from the region. The exterior skin will be constructed using SCIPS Panels by Green Sandwich Technologies. Some portions will be covered with perforated steel with natural petal patina. Site area walls will be natural color concrete block. Floors will be concrete in the main living area and wood in the private areas. The interior is to be light and of neutral color.