Balancing size with efficiency
Architect Jack Kemper broke down the mass of the house into smaller pieces to reduce the scale, and oriented it to capture lake views and take advantage of passive solar heat gain. “We weren’t shooting for anything formal or European,” says Kemper. “It’s an amalgamation, with elements of Craftsman style in the porch columns and French style in the steep hip roofs.” Photos: Olson Photographic
At the other end of the spectrum is a custom home in Oxford, Conn., that is nearly 8,000 square feet including the walkout lower level. Yet this home, too, is green. “This was going to be their last home, so the clients wanted their wish list fulfilled in every way,” says John Ricci, president of Ricci Construction Group, Cheshire, Conn.
For an active family that enjoys water sports, the opportunity to purchase two lots in a lakefront development was irresistible. Even though they were planning a large home, they wanted to use as little of the property, which totals 3.47 acres, as possible.
“We tried to get the house to work on one of the lots,” says architect Jack Kemper, principal of Kemper Associates Architects, Farmington, Conn. “But in the end, we had to put part of the driveway on the second lot. And partway through the process we flipped it.”
In lieu of a formal dining room, the clients have a large eat-in kitchen with a coffered ceiling, a walk-in pantry, a large island, and two-tone stained and painted custom cabinets.
Including the walkout lower level, this Connecticut home is 7,906 square feet, but it’s no energy hog. Here are the details:
The HERS index of 43 is 56 percent better than a comparable code-built home.
According to a blower-door test, the air infiltration value of the heating and cooling system is 5400 CFM at 50 Pascals.
Five geothermal air-to-water, two-stage geothermal heat pumps exchange heat through closed-loop well fields located more than 400 feet below ground. The homeowners will recoup their investment in the geothermal system in 10 years, says builder John Ricci.
Solar roof panels collect energy to heat water in large storage tanks, providing all the hot water for the family’s needs.
The developer had previously excavated the site to use some of the material in road construction. Ricci had to re-excavate it to accommodate a 3-percent pitch on the driveway and build a 9-foot walkout basement. “With the road being higher than the top of the foundation it was a little tricky, but we built a retaining wall and brought the driveway along the front and put in some additional drainage,” he says.
The first and second floors total 5,902 square feet, plus another 2,004 square feet of finished space on the lower level. Ricci was determined to make the home energy efficient and comfortable. Rooftop solar panels heat water in storage tanks for the family’s household needs, and a geothermal system heats and cools the home while keeping operating costs low. Closed-cell insulation in the outside walls and sealed ductwork keeps air infiltration to a minimum.
Even though retirement isn’t yet on their horizon, the clients wanted to age in place, so Kemper put the master suite on the first floor. They wanted a lot of deck space, he says, and a private dock so the family can indulge in boating, water skiing, and other aquatic activities.
The great room has 21-foot ceilings with reclaimed wood beams that had to be crank-lifted into place. Rounding out the rustic look is a two-story stone fireplace and hickory columns in the entry foyer.
The use of native wood species gives the home a warm and intimate ambience despite its size. The floors and interior doors are hickory, and the front entry and foyer has custom-crafted hickory columns. The office has a hickory coffered ceiling and a custom-built hickory fireplace mantel. Two staircases lead to the second floor, where the children’s bedrooms and guest suite are located. The guest suite has a private bath and kitchenette.
The clients were eager to use a new material called NuCedar, a vinyl composite product, for the siding and trim. “I would use it again,” Ricci says. “It’s very expensive—three times the cost of regular western red cedar—but it does have a great look and it’s maintenance free.”
The home was named Best Custom Home (7,000 to 8,000 square feet) by the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut.
This open, gazebo-shaped porch, supported by tall pillars, has a flat-screen TV, a gas fireplace, a hot tub and views of the lake, the mountains and the swimming pool.