House of Green Gables
Laura Fisher Kaiser -- Interior Design, 6/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
America's suburbs are experiencing a housing crisis, according to architect David Jameson. Developers are clear-cutting infill sites in established neighborhoods and populating them with poorly built, synthetic replicas of bygone-era houses, otherwise known as McMansions. "People buy them because they know little about architecture or the building process," he says, "and don't have the time or patience to endure the custom home design process," which typically takes up to three years.
But that's not the case with Jameson and a recent project. His firm, David Jameson Architect, bought a 1/2-acre lot in the same upscale Bethesda, Maryland, subdivision called Burning Tree in which Jameson himself resides and erected a 10,000-square-foot house. (The neighborhood's 1950's ranches and colonials are fast giving way to McMansions.) An adapted modernist style, the five-bedroom, seven-bathroom residence is not only site specific and well crafted but also environmentally sensitive.
During planning, Jameson carefully situated the house amid the site's undulating hills and heavily forested surroundings in a way that would minimize impact to the land. He cut down only three trees and planted approximately 15 native species. The house itself consists of three volumes that create an abstract T-shape plan; two are stucco topped by gables and connected by a third, smaller flat-roof volume clad in mahogany. A large plinth, made of local mica-schist quartzite, surrounds the perimeter and extends in the rear to form a terrace topped in Pennsylvania bluestone.
Jameson made several key decisions with respect to the house's sustainability. Its northeast-southwest orientation takes advantage of seasonal solar gain and loss. The two-story great room and the formal living room on either ends of the house have pre-engineered floors and roof trusses, which saved time and materials; the roof was framed in two days and produced only one trash bin of waste. Linking these rooms along the rear of the house is a 60-foot-long gallery with floor-to-ceiling windows; Jameson's 4 1/2-foot roof overhang prevents solar gain here. In fact, he designed a recessed pocket along the gallery for automatic shades, but the owners haven't needed to install any. "A green space has to start with good design and that means understanding how the sun moves around the site," he explains.
Sustainability was a factor for Jameson in respect to materials, too. Rubber slates made from recycled tires clad the roof, latex non-VOC paint covers the walls, and all hardwoods are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Millwork in the kitchen and great room is reconstituted zebrawood veneer. And the low-emission, UV-protected windows have aluminum exteriors; the savings in maintenance— no repainting every few years—minimizes materials, cleanup, waste, transportation, and overall energy used. Remarks Jameson, "Durable materials benefit a family and the environment forever."