New Home: Property Planning + Architectural Design + Construction Management
Whitman Road: Woods Hole, MA
Sitting at the rear of this narrow, steep sloping lot was a 1940s cottage that functioned for years as a summer retreat. In recent years, the owners were finding it increasingly difficult to traverse the steep and rocky terrain to get to the cottage from the road and realized that if they were to remain in this place, something would have to change. After discussing the challenges they were experiencing with the property and with the house, and hearing how they, and their children and grandchildren, hope to use the home in the years to come, we determined that it was not feasible to repair or add on to the old cottage and that the most cost effective way to properly address the family’s needs was to rebuild.
Designing the home for three generations of clients was a challenge that we contended with right from the start. The new home is substantially larger than the cottage but does not appear to be since it is partially tucked into the hill and makes very efficient use of the lower level (basement) space. Contained within this lower level are two bedrooms with a total of seven windows, a full bathroom, abundant storage closets, a living area, a data closet for all telecommunication and audio/video connections, and a mechanical room. The perception of living on this level is more akin to first floor living than to a basement given the abundance of natural light and views to the front garden. Accessibility was a primary concern and given the topography of the site and the height of the first floor above grade, it seemed inevitable that we would need to install an elevator in order to get from a garage at street level to the first floor. Our site and building design studies ultimately came up with a plan that eliminated the need for an elevator and allowed access from the street to the garage and first floor by using the topography to our advantage. The resulting plan has all the major functions in the home spread out on the main floor which is level with the garage slab. The master suite (bedroom, bathroom and two walk-in closets) is the only bedroom located on this level. Everything on this level was designed to be handicap accessible.
Two dormers on the roofline allow for a usable and cozy second floor which contains the fourth bedroom, a 3/4 bathroom, and a naturally well-lit living area. A substantial storage attic is also provided at this upper level.
This multi-generational home is insulated with mineral wool insulation within the stud cavities as well as on the outside of the structural sheathing making the exterior walls of this house virtually fireproof. This home exceeds Mass Save Tier III requirements and is test-proven by a Certified Home Energy Rater to perform 54% better than a code-built house in MA of the same design. Our attention to details during construction will pay off for the homeowners – they will save approximately $581 annually as compared to a conventionally built home.
Indoor Air Quality
Always with an eye toward energy efficiency, this house was designed to be as air tight as possible and as such, needed some way to ensure that a healthy amount of fresh air be introduced to the interior. Rather than purchase and install an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) as we have done on other projects, we installed a duct from the outside to the mechanical ductwork supplying heated and cooled air throughout the house and connected it to the bathroom exhaust fan. As the bathroom fan exhausts stale air from the house on a pre-programmed schedule, the duct connected to outside will draw in fresh air and mix it with the air being heated or cooled within the house. The result is the same as the HRV but the method used is less expensive and more efficient.
In the interest of reducing water usage required for irrigation and minimizing landscape maintenance, the landscape design does not include any grass or lawn areas. All of the plantings selected were native to the area and were chosen based on their ability to provide a habitat and a food source for birds and other local wildlife as well as colorful foliage throughout the year. As indigenous species, once they are established in the landscape, they should not require any additional irrigation.