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         CUSTOM.  CONTEMPORARY.  COASTAL
              OLD LYME         SOUTHPORT
                       860.227.1169 

HOMES THAT BREATHE

With the important recognition that environment has a profound effect on life, projects are tailored through landscape, building, and interior to fully realize the potential of each situation.
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Hamburg Cove: Nautilus Architects            Photo: Michael Elsden 


Insulating concrete form or (ICF) is a system of formwork for reinforced concrete usually made with a rigid thermal insulation that stays in place as a permanent interior and exterior substrate for walls, floors, and roofs. The forms are interlocking modular units that are dry-stacked (without mortar) and filled with concrete. The units lock together somewhat like Lego bricks and create a form for the structural walls or floors of a building. ICF construction has become commonplace for both low rise commercial and high performance residential construction as more stringent energy efficiency and natural disaster resistant building codes are adopted. ICFs may be used with frost protected shallow foundations (FPSF).
At Nautilus Architects, sustainable design is a fundamental part of what we set out to achieve on every project.  Mostly, that’s about good choices and successful designs that result in longevity.  Some clients place added emphasis on energy efficiency.  It comes at a premium, but there are added benefits: improved indoor air quality, reduced maintenance and operations costs, and... a healthier environment?  
Not necessarily.  While the choices that create an efficient home clearly benefit its owner, they don’t always result in a net benefit to the environment.  The other, less obvious piece of the equation is the energy expended in the making of the building.  For instance, a deep roof overhang seems like a good way to protect a home’s walls, windows and doors from the elements and improve longevity.  But what additional energy went into the creation of those overhangs?  They may be structurally demanding and an energy-involving premium product.
The same scrutiny can be applied to every part of the building, and yield some surprising findings.  More and more, we are educating ourselves about this critically-important aspect of our work.  For example, we are excited about the possibilities of reducing emissions by using carbon conscious concrete when possible.
And still, as with most everything, economics is at work in determining behavior.  Solar energy subsidies and geothermal rebates get homeowners motivated; as soon as they dry up, the enthusiasm does too.  And so, since making informed, green choices about design and construction almost always translates as “costs more,” it will never become the accepted norm until mandated by code or incentivized through subsidies.
The energy involved in construction ranks among the most deleterious to the earth, so we can all do a better job going forward.

 
-Chris Arelt
Nautilus Architects

Under Construction. Design by Nautilus Architects
The design for this amazing waterfront site is loaded head to toe with energy-efficient construction features. It gets going right from the start with an ICF foundation and four inches of XPS rigid insulation under the basement slab, creating an airtight envelope with great R-value.
The Crow’s Nest is a new, contemporary home located on a plateau of land overlooking the Long Island Sound and currently under construction.  The homeowners were keenly interested in building an energy-efficient, healthy environment for their family of four and considered all available systems and methods that would achieve that end.The site was facing due south, toward the view, and that immediately presented exciting opportunities.  We could make the south glassy and at the same time create a building that benefitted from the orientation.  By using insulated concrete forms (ICFs), the building would be structurally sound and also achieve superior performance, a dual benefit.  ICFs are concrete forms that have integral rigid foam on both faces that remains in place following the pour, resulting in zero air infiltration, exceptional R-value (thermal insulation), and additional thermal benefits from the ground temperature that travels up through the concrete contained within the foam.  In short, it is a passive system that envelops the house in a naturally-conditioned blanket of comfort.

The south-facing expanse is almost entirely glass: this has the dual advantage of exploiting the views while capturing the sun’s heat in a concrete floor slab which, like the ICF walls, retains that heat and passively conditions the interior.  Deciduous trees form a passive-solar screen to limit summer gain.

The mechanical systems involved in the Crow’s Nest are almost secondary given the integrated systems described above, at least as far as conditioning.  The level of thermal comfort is already largely in place.  Instead, because the house is so tight, the air quality becomes arguably the most important aspect.  By using an energy recovery ventilation system (ERV), continuous indoor-outdoor air exchanges ensure that indoor air quality is maximized.  Essentially, the ERV takes in fresh air from the outside, exchanges the heat/cool so there is no loss in the translation, and delivers that fresh air to the indoors.

The ERV is not a dehumidification system, and on a waterfront setting such as this humidity is a major factor.  Dehumidification is addressed using the heating/cooling mechanical system and ensures that indoor air humidification can be optimally controlled.

The energy source for the systems that control the Crow’s Nest consist partially of propane, for the boiler that services the radiant floors, and a Tesla photovoltaic roof, that provides all the electricity for the lighting, appliances, and domestic hot water.  Because the roof is south-facing, the incidence of sun ideal, and the low pitch makes the panels invisible from the property.
 


Nautilus Architects is a 2018 Finalist for the athome A-list 2018 awards here in Connecticut.  The A-list Awards is athome magazine's premier interior design, landscape and architecture competition recognizing and celebrating excellence in residential and commercial design.
A-list 2018 Finalist Design: Nautilus Architects                                                                Photo: Michael Elsden
HOMES THAT BREATHE
This new waterfront home is the second phase of a project that began several years ago with the design and construction of an infinity edge pool, terrace/hardscape environment, and pool house. The phase one project was awarded first prize in the 2017 Innovation in Design awards competition sponsored by Connecticut Cottages & Gardens magazine.


The project was undertaken in this manner so that, logistically, the construction closer to the water would be executed first and not struggle for access with a large main house in the way. Too, it would allow for immediate enjoyment of what is arguably the most enjoyable aspect of the overall project!

The main house is situated parallel to the shore, broad and relatively shallow in depth, often one room deep, so that a dramatic relationship to the water is achieved throughout. Although this configuration creates a structure that is in one sense a physical barrier between the front and the water, the effect is anything but, since expanses of glass across the front and rear allow for light and view to pass completely through and the water is visible through the house from the main entry and elsewhere (a similar transparency was achieved at the recent Marshlands project, which appears in this month’s Connecticut Cottages and Gardens Architecture issue). In both cases, the houses are located in areas where front-yard transparency is not a privacy issue.

Sustainable design is an important aspect of Hamburg Cove. All exterior cladding materials – glass, metal, and stone – will require no painting or maintenance of any kind. The home will be fueled by geothermal heat pumps. Radiant heating will be used in the slab of the lower walkout level. The house will be controlled using smart technology, including lighting, conditioning, and mechanized shading that inhibits undesirable solar gain and glare through the west-facing glazing. All lighting is 2700K, CRI 90+ LED to ensure long life and low heat gain.

Phase 1, completed in 2017, won the CTC&G Innovation In Design award for Architecture.
Copyright © 2018 Christopher Arelt, Architect, AIA, All rights reserved.


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