[All photos by BUILD LLC]
The tail end of 2014 sped past like a blur. With three projects in full on construction mode, we’ve barely had a chance to pause. It’s been a long while since we checked in with the Case Study House 2014 progress on the blog, so we’re taking a moment to give you the rundown.
To date, windows are installed, drywall is in place, and exterior siding is in progress. The critical path to completion is set and, off in the distance, a finish line is visible. While we’ve got our sights on completion by early spring, a few hurdles remain. CSH 2014 is a simple (appearing) house, but like any construction endeavor, we’ve had our share of challenges and opportunities along the way.
Site & Outdoor Living
The project sits on a small city lot, with a modest yard, part of which is taken up by an old garage being transformed into a new space. Elevated above street level, the house functions as a modern interpretation of the classic bungalow. The verticality and small lot offered us opportunities to create outdoor spaces against the house itself. By carving out outdoor space at each level, experiences from a variety of vantage points opened up and gave us some much-needed relief in the vertically-oriented plan.
In lieu of a straight run of stairs, we decided to approach the front door with a series of tiers, changing material from concrete to wood as you get closer to the house — again, a modern twist on the urban stoop. A concrete landing surrounded by planters creates a natural spectator area, not unlike the bleacher seating we designed for one of our commercial projects. The front porch itself offers cover for the patio just outside the lower level flex space. Though not large enough to occupy, it provides useful covered storage area. In a similar fashion to the front stoop, the back stoop operates as bleacher seating for observing the activities going on in the backyard, providing a grounding and transition from more private space just inside.
As is typical of our projects, the main deck off of the living areas (here on the upper floor), serves as an extension of interior living spaces. We like to keep the indoor-outdoor connection as seamless as possible, going for large sliding or accordion doors with a low-profile track. With a significant amount of canopy coverage, a grill, and a fire pit, the upper deck is going to quickly become a favorite hang out spot for the family.
To cap it all off, we also optioned in the future roof deck and went forward with constructing this now. Though modest in size, it offers expansive city and mountain views, providing a daily reminder of why we value this corner of the world so much. A simple ship ladder and roof hatch at the top floor provide access, and we even took the dumbwaiter (in this case, vertical bar cart,) to the roof.
Windows & Doors
Aluminum windows by Marlin, sliding doors, and full lite fir passage doors were used at the CSH 2014. The design aims to maximize southern exposure and outdoor access at multiple levels, so openings were designed to be large and access points seamless, where appropriate. On any project, windows are a critical path item, as their installation determines a point after which a bulk of the interior work can get rolling.
And, as we alluded to in the beginning of this post, homes that appear simple may offer even larger challenges. Large expanses of glass, offering airy views and transparency once installed, are quite the opposite sitting in the delivery truck. (Not to mention code-required triple glazing. Our backs hurt just thinking about it.) Throw in site constraints like small lots and narrow side yards, along with long lead times and back-ordered units, and we have a full-on project within a project: How to install large, heavy windows with limited access, and then field-glaze some of those units when installed. We used a large commercial lift for getting windows and glass to the appropriate levels. From there, it was a matter of getting our strongest folks available with glass cups, dexterity on ladders, shared ingenuity, and brute force.
The lower level flex space and main level bedrooms were designed to have immediate outdoor access, and here we used Milgard sliding doors, which come in standard heights that match our interior doors. The upper level, which holds the main living/entertaining spaces, has access to the living terrace through large La Cantina sliders. These three-panel, 10′ tall siding doors are showing up on more of our projects for their generous openings, ease of use, and our general satisfaction with the product. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on the topic.
The exterior siding construction at CSH 2014 follow our BUILD devised rainscreen composition: vaproshield, flashing tape, furring strips, and siding material. Cedar siding, aluminum panels, and painted hardie board comprise the exterior palette. We added some variation in the elevation plane at certain material breaks around the house. At these plane changes, windows are set beyond the sheathing and deeper furring strips are used to build up the plane that will be sitting proud. Further adding definition to the modern box, small horizontal sills are added to each window head, which offer protection for the openings.
As far as interiors go, we generally stayed consistent at the CSH2014 with clean, modern finishes. Flush base is used at main living areas, applied base at bathrooms and closets, and a baseless reveal at the lower traffic areas with concrete floor (the lower level flex space).
At interior closets, we use a Raumplus system, which helps to add lightness to the hallways and allows light to play and enhance these surfaces. We’ve even made their already slim profile slimmer by tucking the track into the ceiling.
Bringing material continuity from the outside in at the Master Suite, we’ve bled the warmth of the cedar siding and soffit into the ceiling finish at the bedroom. We framed this space with a lower lid to achieve a transition between cedar and drywall as well as accommodate the necessary framing for the deck above. At the floor to ceiling window, this cedar lid runs past the window head as a single plane, creating partial cover to the adjacent backyard terrace. Once landscaped, the backyard will provide a sanctuary view outside the bedrooms.
In this project, we’re using a radiant heat system throughout the house, and limited our eastern and western exposures since these systems have slower response times to rapid changes in sun exposure (but feel so great underfoot). However, in lieu of a tankless system, the radiant tubes are heated by a dedicated line branched off of the main high-capacity, high-efficiency water heater. This keeps the potable (regularly used water) supply lines for the rest of the house completely separate from the heat supply for the radiant tubes by using a heat exchanger. Going this route simplifies the overall system, allowing for one point of heat exchange and requiring fewer mechanical components. As with all of our radiant systems, the manifold in each room is installed as out of the way as possible — set in the walls off the floor and tucked in locations where they’re accessible yet out of view, like under a shelf or inside a closet.
The living and entertaining area, situated on the top floor with full southern exposure, required a little assistance in maintaining comfortable temperatures. We framed out a nook above the pantry door to install a mini split-system fan unit. The heat pump for the unit sits on the roof above. An added advantage of being on the top floor: the connection and installation of this small system was direct and simple. Additionally, the open plan and open stair core allows the modest unit to drop some small amount of cooling to the bedroom floor below. It’s not an overly engineered system, but is a cost-effective way to provide some basic cooling to the main areas.
We have tried different methods to meet the code requirement of providing constant fresh air to homes via passive air inlets (PAIs, also referred to as ‘trickle vents’ since they allow a very small quantity of outside air to consistently trickle into the home). These are required since home construction has evolved to be air tight to keep the building envelope from experiencing moisture intrusion. In this case, the visual impact of the PAI has been intentionally minimized in the CSH 2014 by installing PAIs in the ceiling, aligned with can lighting, and venting them out the exterior wall aligned with other items like fan vents. This approach keeps our interior walls less cluttered and allows for consistent alignment of wall penetrations on the exterior wall.
The new pervious surface requirements from the city means green roofs are going to be making a regular appearance on many of our Seattle projects. The green roof at CSH 2014, provided by Xero Flor, covers a significant portion of the roof surface, and doubles as a nice backdrop for the roof deck experience.
The powder room at the upper level of the house was outfitted with a small skylight vent, which pops open automatically. While its function is more for venting, it does offer a limited amount of natural light into the space.
The need for a dumbwaiter at the CSH 2014 was brought up in an earlier post, due to the vertical and inverted nature of the house plan. The shaft runs from the garage (where heavy grocery items can be conveyed up to the kitchen with ease) all the way up to the roof deck. With all levels containing habitable spaces, including the roof, it made sense to take the shaft all the way to the top, maximizing the functionality of this feature. A note to those who are considering designing a dumbwaiter into a project: currently, the city requires a special permit that seems about as complicated as permitting an elevator. Something’s amiss when a conveyance system for bottles of wine (operating at a power less than a garbage disposal — no exaggeration) is treated with the same heavy hand as a conveyance system for humans. But that might be a post for another time, and we’re not quite out of the heavily wooded forest on this issue just yet.
That covers the latest on CSH2014. There will be plenty more coming up on the blog about the project as we reach the final stretches of the construction phase. In the meantime, keep up with the week to week progress on our Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Cheers from Team BUILD