/ 1,500 square feet including covered porch / construction 2020 / renderings by MOT /

This ultra-sustainable house will be built on seven acres of active farmland deep within the rolling hills of Delaware County, NY. The client wanted an ecologically responsible, simple and serene house that would let her live lightly on the land. The house’s simple, vernacular shape and materiality allows it to fit unobtrusively amongst the neighboring farms, but the crisp details and large windows make the design decidedly modern.

Five acres of the site are hayfields which are harvested for a nearby dairy farm; the farm returns manure to fertilize the fields. Other landscape features include a creek running through a stand of mature trees and a marshy area that provides habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. The owner plans to introduce a fruit tree orchard, irrigation pond, large vegetable garden and to plant more trees to rejuvenate the forested areas of the site. The house itself will be built high on a hill at the end of an existing farm trail; in addition to giving the house grand views of the landscape, it also maximizes the amount of arable farmland that can be retained.

Natural, recycled content and Red List free materials were favored throughout the design, including an all lumber structure, wood cladding, interior panelling and millwork (all sourced from responsibly managed forests), earthen floors, mineral wool insulation for the walls and roof, recycled glass countertops, glazed terracotta bathroom tiles, and milk paint for the painted interior elements. In addition to creating warm, sensory rich interiors, these materials were chosen for their low embodied energy content, which is critical to further reducing the carbon footprint of the house.

The layout of spaces is efficient, and the overall aesthetic is one of elegant minimalism. Entry is through a covered porch into a small central hall with a framed view to the hay fields. There are two bedrooms, positioned at the East end of the house to face the sunrise, and a fully accessible bathroom. There is a small laundry room with a hatch to the mechanical attic, and all of the plumbing is ganged together around this central space. The kitchen, dining and living uses happen in a generous, cathedral ceilinged room with long, sunset views to the South and West. Two pairs of oversized glazed french doors open onto the South terrace to seamlessly connect the interiors with the landscape beyond.

The footprint of the house is as small as possible while still providing generous spaces that meet the client’s programatic needs. It is sited with optimal cardinal orientation, window placement balances heat loss and solar gain, an earthen floor provides thermal mass, generous glazed areas provide ample natural light and ventilation and appropriate exterior and interior shading are placed to reduce heat gain and glare in the summer. To conserve water, rain water will be collected from the standing seam metal roof, a grey water recycling system will be used and all plumbing will use low flow fixtures. Ceiling fans and large operable windows will be used instead of air conditioning.

The design incorporates many passive solar design features in order to maximize energy efficiency and increase comfort for the inhabitants. The house is designed to be Net Zero Energy; this will be achieved by minimizing electrical energy needs and connecting the house to a 5kw ground mounted PV solar array (the house will still be connected to the utility grid). All systems for mechanical, hot water heating, heat recovery ventilation and cooking will use high efficiency, electrically powered equipment.

The house, while uncomplicated in appearance, has many technically sophisticated components in order to further reduce its carbon footprint. The construction assemblies were designed to be durable and extremely energy efficient. The exterior envelope has thick exterior insulation and no thermal bridging, triple glazed aluminum clad wood windows, with careful detailing at openings and edges to make a nearly air tight enclosure. The slab on grade has a super insulated frost protected shallow foundation. The concrete mix is specified with fly ash and slag to reduce its embodied carbon, and the foundation shape itself reduces the amount of concrete needed by eliminating the deep footings of a traditional design. these materials were chosen for their low embodied energy content, which is critical to further reducing the carbon footprint of the house. All of these features coalesce into a simple yet sophisticated home.

/ Hill House / Vernacular form with modern details /

/ Hill House / Sunlit, elegant interiors /

/ Hill House / Ecologically responsible materials /

/ Hill House / Strong connection to exterior landscape /

/ Hill House / Simple form, technically sophisticated /

/ Hill House / Passive Solar Design, Net Zero Energy /