Entertaining a “Net-Zero” design solution is always a welcome challenge – especially when it’s not about a point scoring system that allows you to call your project “certified.” The Live/Work Micro-Dwelling project in North Carolina was a breath of fresh air for our design team! No restrictions – just design dwelling units that are focused on sustainable lifestyles, affordable, self-sufficient and encourage interaction between residents and nearby college campus.

 Board 1The design incorporates a Geo-thermal air exchange along with energy recovery ventilation for mechanical systems as well as both Solar Thermal collectors to heat water for radiant floor heating. Photovoltaic Arrays are set up to harvest sun energy for an all electric kitchen and battery storage can be utilized at the basement level to store excess power for future use during cloudy days. Rainwater and “grey water” can also be harvested and stored for use in irrigation of landscape and garden beds, toilets and laundry machines.

Generating an aesthetically pleasing composition of articulated boxes is achieved through mixing cladding materials vs. exposing the containers. Exposing them adds interest architecturally and we didn’t want to lose sight of the core organizational element of the container altogether. Stacking boxes doesn’t have to be boring!


custom made simple

Christensen SketchUPWe don’t often do circles, but when we do…….the final build outs are pretty much always exciting spaces that have an energetic feel and certainly some feeling of movement! Repetition is a good thing – it can create order, balance, visual interest, and in this case helps define a sense of space within an environment. Our example here is showing our design tested within a minimalist environment – I find black and white or monochrome is often a good way to determine the design aesthetic before finalizing material selections (they are always in mind, but it’s good to exercise restraint so preconceived ideas are kept in check.)

IMG_7932-WEBThe client presented us with a program indicating that the reception staff was the core of the business and requested we highlight the work area as a centralized hub in which all office functions revolved around. It was easy to immediately establish a “hub and spokes” design motif and run with it. The challenge was not getting carried away and losing sight of the very fact that a budget existed! The form followed the function based on the design motif and thus we have a very compact reception hub (for 3 people) that is open and interactive with patrons and employees alike.

The key feature to highlight here is the use of standard light fixture components within custom made wooden blade elements. Repetition and attention to detail helped to minimize waste and make fabrication easy for the millwork supplier who was responsible for building the lights. Budgets do not have to limit creativity or be a discouragement to a designer. We should always be looking for new and innovative ways to express design. Does this light fixture cost more than an “out-of-the-box” standard light fixture – YES, but at only 1.5X’s the cost of a standard 2×4 parabolic light (typical office light) you be the judge as to whether the aesthetic justifies the added cost. “Custom” is the game we play daily as designers unless we are truly pulling something off a shelf and dropping it into a predetermined space (which we could argue really doesn’t require design.) If we keep things simple, custom goes a long way!

Designing the Solution 3 of …..

Epiq SystemsSo we previously showed the concept sketch that started the design process along with a 3D model image to convey that concept to the client. The last step prior to construction is to prepare the drawings indicating layout, materials, and detailed information so that the final installed product is reflective of the design. Without this information we would essentially be asking the contractor to guess how to build the design.

Epiq Systems
Photography by Aaron Daugherty

It’s always exciting for us when the creative process we start months or even years before finally reaches a state of completion. But it’s even more exciting when the client shares in the process with us and believes there is benefit to providing spaces that have energy in lieu of the status quo. Here is the final design installed in the break room for our client.