The (Almost) All-American Home | U.S. Green Building Council
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LEED BD+C: Homes v3 - LEED 2008

The (Almost) All-American Home

LEED Platinum 2014

This reinvented American Dream house challenges us to consider building alternatives that are perceived to be beyond today's standards, but have a quality to last a lifetime.

What can we gain from questioning the fact that our buildings are largely made of imported materials and fixtures? Can renewable energy become integral to design? And how should architects address the prevailing conditions in which buildings are, in some cases, demolished and replaced just years after they are built? By asking these questions, this project takes up the challenge of defining what it means to build responsibly. Sustainable architecture is more than a checklist—it is the pursuit of healthy environments, which are as much about materiality and vitality as they are space.
 
When the owner bought the lot in 2002, already several of the street's original 1950s ranch houses had been torn down. Recognizing the environmental consequences of that practice, this project followed a radically different path: deconstruction. The existing house was constructed in reverse; carefully removed and then taken to local construction-related charities. The tax deduction from this donation, $60,000, assisted the owner in financing what was to become—in the words of New York Times journalist Mimi Swartz who covered the project during its construction—The (Almost) All-American Home.
 
Seen from the street, the house strives for a neighborly urban gesture. The front half of the lot is a collection of outdoor spaces. A drought-tolerant garden, entry porch, courtyard, roof terrace, poolside lounge, and edible garden, is the best way to understand what the design sought: a convivial yet intimate framework for domestic life in this sprawling subtropical city. The turf lawn of the American Dream house here meets its retooled 21st century match.
 
Drawing upon the legacy of Houston's mid-20th-century architecture, the house is built of long-lasting, rich materials and organized by five bays of structural steel. This charcoal-painted grid is bookended by east and west-facing walls of limestone and terrazzo floors with marble, both quarried in Texas.
 
Performing also as a sun-filtering canopy and outdoor shelter, the 5.8kW photovoltaic array produces up to a third of the house’s electricity. Domestic water is heated by a roof-mounted solar collector, which provides enough energy even to warm the pool in winter. The 1400-gallon underground rainwater collection tank serves as an irrigation reservoir for the on-site urban farm, which produces vegetables, fruits, and herbs year-round. This reinvented American Dream house challenges us to consider building alternatives that are perceived to be beyond today's standards, but have a quality to last a lifetime.

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Project details
Size
3,600 sf
Use
Single-Family
Setting
Urban
Certified
30 Jul 2014
Data Reporting
Energy Update
Water Update
Transportation Update
Waste Update
Human Experience Update

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