Architecture for Specific Sites 2: Restrictions
Written June 11, 2013 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Architecture
Previously we talked about a site’s potential based on each homeowner’s individual personalities, the various views a site has to offer, and how best to frame or mask those views. In this post, we’re talking about specific site restrictions, one of the least favorite issues to discuss, but important nonetheless.
One of the first things architects need to think about in site design are the constraints. What do we have to work with? What are the boundaries? I would suggest working with an architect on determining what these restrictions are before land is even purchased. Most building sites have basic general constraints you should be aware of. These may include building setback distances (from property lines, lake high water marks, etc.), easements, and maximum building height.
A few years ago we were working with a client who wanted to add on to their house to the east, as far as they could go to the property line setback. After briefly looking into it, we had to tell them that they couldn’t go any farther, as they were already in the setback. We were able to come up with a different design solution, but if they had known this before they bought the house they might have thought differently. By the way, if your house is over the setback, and has been for several years or decades, you can often be “grandfathered in”. However, if you built it yourself a few years ago, then you’re most likely out of luck.
This lakefront building site needs to adhere to a high water setback, as well as front and side setback distances.
Architects can verify the restrictions with the local planning department, neighborhoods, and any other applicable jurisdictions, codes, bylaws, etc. Once we know all of this we can creatively work within the limitations. That being said, you can also apply for variances. If there are instances where you are a little over a regulation and your options are limited, where it is a hardship to you and does not cause hardship to others, then you may have a chance to be granted a variance.
Some areas, including gated communities and other neighborhoods, may have design guidelines, which are added restrictions on top of the governing jurisdiction and applicable building codes. These may include maximum and minimum floor areas allowed, engineered drainage plans, and maximum exterior lighting allowed. Other non-allowable items may include certain exterior materials and colors, visible skylights, and flagpoles.
Cities and towns in general have more stringent requirements than rural areas. One example is the Town of Telluride, which has its own Historic and Architectural Review Commission. This commission strives to maintain the historic integrity of Telluride, which is designated as a National Historic Landmark District.
Waterfront lots typically have more prerequisites as well, mainly to keep the water pure and the scenery pristine. An example of this is the California Coastal Act, which regulates land use in the coastal zones, such as development activities, construction of buildings, and public access.
Every state in the United States (except Wisconsin) adheres to the International Residential Code (IRC), as do the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Most of the IRC deals with the internal requirements of residences. A few things to be aware of in reference to site design include wind speeds, snow loads, earthquakes, and coastal high-hazard areas. The International Building Code (IBC) relates to all other buildings, including multi-family residences, and regulates allowable building heights and floor areas based on fire-resistance. Your governing jurisdiction may have additional or more defined requirements. Some states and cities have their own additional codes.
It should be noted that you might also consider the constraints of your neighbors as well. If there is a neighbor downhill from you, and there are no height limitations, there is a chance that you could have your views blocked in the future.
Next - Part 3: Solar Orientation and Control
Previous Post – Architecture for Specific Sites (Part 1): Personalities and Views
John Hendricks, Architect AIA, NCARB. Hendricks Architecture has designed residential homes throughout the US. We have designed in various states, cities, towns and neighborhoods with most of the requirements named above. John Hendricks has also served on architectural review boards in the past, so has experience on both sides. Please visit our selected projects page for some of our more recent projects. Click to Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog
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Architecture for Specific Sites (Part 1): Personalities and Views
Written May 17, 2013 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Architecture
Architecture is highly site specific. Every one of our clients has their own personalities, and we design to fit each of their unique goals, yet each home is also created to fit into its own specific site. We’ve designed all over, from snowy mountain slopes to warm oceanfront beaches, and everywhere in between. This wide range of locales brings different influences into the process of placing a home on a site.
However, there are many other factors that also go into the individual building and site designs. The views, local restrictions, solar orientation, wind, water, vegetation, topography, and numerous other factors, also play a role in the overall concept. This topic is so extensive that I’m breaking it up into separate posts, and, because I’m an architect and not a book writer, I’ll only be covering the basics.
Building Site above Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Every building site is unique and deserves its own design. Taking advantage of everything the site has to offer (the layout of trees, boulders, topography, etc.) is important, but so is matching the owner’s individual personalities.
The design process is typically a collaborative one. I’ll talk with the owner and discuss their site, or potential site, along with what they would like in and around their home. I’ll also provide a questionnaire to give them more opportunities to share their passions and ambitions. If they are looking for something playful, I’ll throw out some fun ideas to help provide some sparks. It’s an enjoyable brainstorming process where we’ll create something appropriately unique for them to treasure in the years ahead. This is important since they will most likely be spending a good amount of their lives in and around the home.
One homeowner I’ve been working with has a home he’d like to remodel, as well as a barn that we’ll transform into a guest cabin. The site is surrounded by large cedar trees. We started talking about a way to connect the two, and came up with an enclosed bridge that will travel between the trees. A connecting open bridge will link trees and end up in a tree house.
Most building sites have at least one of the following; good views, neighbors, adjacent roads, or unwanted noise. The trick is to take advantage of the views, while masking out the neighbors, roads, and noise. Unless of course you enjoy observing the neighbors a la Dudley Moore (or vice-versa), listening to their music, and watching the cars go by.
Mountain home view from a side deck
Not everyone has a beautiful view of the Grand Tetons or the Pacific Ocean, and I have yet to meet anyone who has both from the same house. Many, however, may have broad or peek-a-boo views of mountains, hills, a pond, a grassy area, a beautiful tree, or other “territorial” views.
Placing and designing the home, or parts of the home, to face the best views is essential, yet needs to work with the topography and landscaping. Most of our clients want the great room, kitchen, dining areas, master bedroom, and the main decks and patios facing the best views.
When there are unwanted elements in the view corridor, the field of vision can be enhanced by framing the landscape with trees, shrubs, hedges, boulders, and natural or man-made berms or other topography. Man-made structures such as fences, half walls, sculptural elements, a playhouse, and even a guest house could also be placed in the right spot to frame the view.
For privacy, strategically placed plantings similar to all of the above could be used, as well as thicker railings to provide privacy on decks. If your site is above the unwanted views, a simple solution from the interior is to have window shades that pull up, which will block the neighbors below, while providing views above. When we lived in Seattle we had these to see the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound, while blocking the neighbors below us.
The best way to mask noise is to provide a fountain near the point where the owner wishes to admire the views. The farther away the water feature, the less effective it is. Vegetation can absorb some of the noise, and vertical walls, fences, etc. can provide a sound barrier by reflecting some of the noise away.
Next: Part 2 – Site Restrictions
John Hendricks, Architect AIA, NCARB
Hendricks Architecture is located in Sandpoint, Idaho. We specialize in mountain architecture, and have been listed the past few years as one of Mountain Living’s Top Mountain Architects. We have designed all over North America, from open oceanfront homes to mountain homes. Please visit our selected projects page for some of our more recent projects. Click to Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog
Previous Post: Idaho Mountain Camping Vacation
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Idaho Mountain Camping Vacation
Written April 26, 2013 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Resort Areas
Every summer I take the family on a camping trip. Last summer we stayed in the State of Idaho. We made a counter clockwise route from Sandpoint to Stanley, and back through Missoula, Montana. We were also able to visit a ghost town on the way, and see some rustic building techniques, maybe a little too rustic for some.
Rustic Log Rail Fence in Lower Stanley, Idaho
Except for the southern central section of the state, there are not a lot of flat places in Idaho. In fact, percentage-wise, Idaho is more mountainous than any other state. And where there are mountains, there are rivers. About ¾ of our trip was along some very beautiful rivers, and much of these where along Idaho “Scenic Byways”. Many parts of these rivers are popular for rafting, and hot springs are abundant.
Our first day was spent driving down Highway 95 from Sandpoint, through Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston, along the rivers to McCall, and down to Lake Cascade. The drive down into Lewiston is pretty dramatic. The highway towers above as it weaves down into the city, which is hugged by the Clearwater and Snake Rivers. We then drove up the Salmon River towards Riggins, and then up the Little Salmon River towards the beautiful town of McCall. We finally arrived at Amanita Campground on Lake Cascade as dusk was setting in.
Coho salmon spawning near our campsite
The next morning we saw coho salmon spawning in the stream next to our campsite. After trying some fishing on the lake, we took a side trip to visit Tamarack Resort, a golf and ski community nearby. In addition to the golf and skiing, they have a couple of nice amenities including the lodge, a fun little chapel, a ballroom building and a meeting building disguised as a barn and schoolhouse respectively. The golf course is a signature Robert Trent Jones II design. A village is in a long standing state of construction as they have been in and out of foreclosure. However, I can see that once it gets resolved they could be in good shape. That afternoon we went swimming in the lake, and finished off the day around the campfire.
The next day we continued on our way, driving south along the Payette River towards Banks. We had lunch at a restaurant in Banks, just south of Banks Lowman road, which overlooks the Payette. We sat back and relaxed, while below us was a bustle of activity as Bear Valley Rafting was beginning their half-day trips down the river. After lunch we drove up the very windy, yet scenic Banks Lowman Road. I had to stop and get out, looking down into the South Fork of the Payette River, which is known for its white water. It just so happened that at that spot, far below, a rafting expedition was currently carrying their rafts a short ways down the river to avoid a more dangerous stretch.
Rafting on the South Fork of the Payette River
We made our way east past Lowman towards Mountain View Campground, where we stayed the night. This campground doesn’t exactly have a mountain view, other than the hills on the other side of the Payette River, but it does have some great spots on the river. There weren’t any mosquitoes, but in the evening the no-see-ums were so horrendous that we didn’t last long around the campfire.
The Salmon River in Lower Stanley with the Sawtooth Mountains to the South.
The next day we drove up Highway 21 along the “Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route”, and down into Stanley as we got our first glimpses of the Sawtooth Mountains. The jagged panorama of the Sawtooths is one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I’ve ever seen. Nestled in the valley below is the Salmon River and the town of Stanley, Idaho. Hardy folk live in this town, which has the honor of being ranked #1 for having the “most days with the coldest temperature” in the lower 48 states.
The Salmon River north of Stanley
We were there in late August, so other than a few semi-cold mornings it was t-shirt and shorts weather. On our first night we stayed in a hotel so we could take showers and enjoy soft beds (we’re tent campers). The next four nights we stayed south of town at Casino Creek Campground, along the Salmon River. It was a nice spot. The sites were fairly open and close together, but because it was late summer the campground was only about 20% full.
Looking NW at the Sawtooth Mountains from Galena Summit, between Stanley and Ketchum
On one of the days we drove over Galena Summit to the Sun Valley and Ketchum areas, about 75 minutes south of Stanley. On another we took a short drive north to the Bonanza and Custer ghost towns. Being an architect who designs mountain homes, I get a kick out of seeing these old, rustic buildings.
A home in the ghost town of Bonanza
Bonanza is spread out with various buildings and a cemetery. Custer is in better shape and has a nice self-guided tour, starting with panning for gold outside a schoolhouse, the first building on the tour.
The Empire Saloon in the Ghost Town of Custer
One of the homes had an interesting roof material. Flattened tin cans covered the whole roof, and were in great shape after 100+ years. So if you’re willing to take the time to collect and flatten them, start saving your tin cans. Just make sure you use a good underlayment.
This tin can roof in Custer has lasted many years.
I also found an innovative way to make a double powder room, OR double toilets in the master bathroom!
Double toilets - too rustic?
All kinds of ideas flow when looking at this master bathroom.
Simple and Rustic Master Bath: Tub and Sitting Area
We also experienced Sunbeam Hot Springs. Here, the hot springs mingle with the Salmon River, and there are several man-made pools, built with moveable rocks. Temperatures vary depending on your proximity to the river. This would be a fun thing to design into a house. Hmmm……
Sunbeam Hot Springs merges with the Salmon River
On our last day we caught several trout in the morning, and in the afternoon we went to beautiful (and popular) Redfish Lake, just south of Stanley. Campgrounds and Redfish Lake Lodge and marina surround the north end of the lake. To the west, the Sawtooths loom overhead. A ferry ride from the lodge takes you to the base of the mountains, where there are numerous hikes and backpacking excursions to alpine lakes. At 6457 feet above sea level, Redfish Lake is at the top end of Idaho’s Columbia River sockeye salmon migration. The salmon enter the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean, then up the Snake and Salmon Rivers, before traveling up Redfish Lake Creek. After traveling about 900 miles from the Pacific, the salmon finally arrive at Redfish Lake. See a map of the quest.
Redfish Lake and the Sawtooth Mountains
We had a visitor on our last night after enjoying a nice trout dinner. Apparently the smell was pretty good, as in the middle of the night I woke up to some rustling around the campsite. I got up and sat there listening, trying to figure out what it was. I heard the small huffing sounds that bears make, and came to the conclusion that there weren’t grizzlies in the area. In most cases I would have just stayed there and let it pass. However, my daughter, who didn’t want to sleep in our big tent, was in a small tent about 30 feet away, and I didn’t want the bear getting close to her tent.
I decided I would quickly get out of the tent, make a run for the minivan, jump in, and start the engine to scare it off if it hadn’t already bolted. Just then, it brushed against the side of the tent where Annie was sleeping, and she bolted upright with wide eyes. “What the hell was that?”
I mouthed “bear”, paused, and then keys and flashlight in my hand, I quickly unzipped the tent, scanned quickly, and ran for the minivan. I quickly grabbed the handle and pulled. It was locked! Cursing myself and the non-working keyless remote (which would have been useful from inside the tent), I fumbled for the right key and jumped in. I started the car, turned on the lights, turned the car around to face the campsite, and then turned it off. The bear was gone.
Trout dinner. Make sure you clean up thoroughly before going to bed.
The next day we drove north up highway 93 (also called the Lewis and Clark Trail), along the Salmon River, and then up and over the spectacular Bitterroot Mountains via Lost Trail Pass. This pass is about a half mile west of the Continental Divide. We then traveled north through Hamilton and into Missoula, Montana, where we spent the night. We then took Highway 200 northwest along the Clark Fork River to Lake Pend Oreille and home in Sandpoint.
A map of the trip from Google Maps. (A/I) Sandpoint (B) Lewiston (C) Cascade Lake (D) Banks (E) Lowman (F) Sun Valley/Ketchum (G) Stanley/Casino Creek Campground (H) Missoula, Montana
John Hendricks is a licensed AIA architect at Hendricks Architecture. We are an architectural firm in Sandpoint, Idaho, specializing in mountain style homes. Click to Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog
Previous Post: Mexico Beach House: The Infinity Edge Pool
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Mexico Beach House: The Infinity Edge Pool
Written February 4, 2013 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Architecture
As mountain architects predominantly specializing in mountain style homes, we aren’t asked very often to design infinity edge pools on the building sites. For this hilltop Mexican style beach house, near the city of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, we were given the opportunity, designing an organically shaped home and infinity edge pool hovering over the Pacific Ocean.
Mexico Beach House Infinity Pool
The site is steeply sloping, with a guest house towards the top, the main residence in the center, and the pool just below. The guest house, pool, and landscaping are being constructed in phase one, with the main house to follow later.
Sunset view from the Mexico Beach House
These photos show the recently completed pool. Infinity edge pools, also called vanishing edge pools, have no curb on the down-slope side, so the water cascades over the edge. At the right angles, this gives the illusion of the water continuing into an ocean, lake, or river beyond. There is a different affect when there is a city, forest or other landscaping beyond, though it can be just as dramatic, if not more so. The water cascades over the edge, into a receiving channel, and is recycled back into the pool.
The curved pool in this case is similarly matched with the organically shaped Mexico beach house design. For a plan of the existing site, see our previous post Beach Home on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
Pool tile detail
This particular pool is intricately detailed in Mexican style, and creates its own shimmering light show under sunlight. Thousands of elliptical glass tiles were placed one at a time at the bottom of the pool, with even smaller square tiles along the walls, curb, and outer walls into the drainage basin . Needless to say, labor is cheap in Mexico.
The organically shaped concrete pool from below
Many thanks to Sandau Builders for sending me these photos. Most of us in the Northern Hemisphere can only dream about places like this during the winter.
John Hendricks, AIA Architect
At Hendricks Architecture, we specialize in the mountain architectural style, but have designed all over the spectrum, from beach houses in Mexico to storybook cottages in the northeastern United States. We’re located in Sandpoint, Idaho. Click to Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog.
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Beach Home on Mexico’s Pacific Coast
Written November 8, 2012 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Architecture
Hendricks Architecture has designed a beach home which is currently under construction on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, near the city of Zihuatanejo. Designing these Coastal Homes is always an enjoyable experience, especially when the property delivers awe inspiring views of the coastline as well as whale activity and ocean sunsets.
Mexico Beach Home - The Guest House
The hilltop guest house over the garage is being built first, along with the landscaping and pool. The more organic main home will be constructed at a later date. One of the owner’s favorite elements on the site is the infinity pool, which will hover over the ocean below.
Mexico Beach Home - Infinity Pool Construction
This seaside home has some similarities to the mountain architecture style we typically design, such as timbers and gable roofs. It also has many differences such as the concrete structure for moisture and thermal efficiency. The main house will also have spacious rooftop decks.
Mexico Beach Home - Trellis
This beach house by the sea is sure to be enjoyed for decades to come. It certainly has some nice sunsets.
Mexico Beach Home - Hammock on the Covered Deck
See Mexico Beach House for design sketches of the main residence. The original site plan sketch of the property is shown below.
Mexico Beach Home - Site Plan Sketch
John Hendricks, AIA Architect
Hendricks Architecture designs custom residences throughout North America, from small beach houses to luxury waterfront mountain homes.
Previous Post: Mountain and Lake Home Curb Appeal
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Mountain and Lake Home Curb Appeal
Written September 7, 2012 by Hendricks Architecture: Tom Russell, Architect LEED AP • Filed Under Architecture
, Mountain Architecture
Mountain and lake homes don’t usually have curbs, but the phrase “curb appeal” still applies. There are few among us who haven’t driven, walked, or even boated by a nice neighborhood and admired the beautiful houses. Everyone appreciates a well designed home with pleasing proportions, balanced massing, well placed windows, and coordinated materials. A nice looking house draws the attention of people passing by, and especially catches the eye of prospective home buyers.
Subtle Curb Appeal - A Mountain Home in Winter
Having a home that meets your spatial requirements, functions well, and doesn’t cost too much for operation and maintenance is important, and any new home design should be able to accommodate these basic requirements. According to a recent survey conducted by Professional Builder magazine, respondents indicated that the most popular criteria people used to decide on whether to buy a property was the exterior look of the home, or its overall design and curb appeal.
While this is not a shocking discovery, it is worth noting that despite recent challenges in the housing market, people still value nice looking home exteriors and are willing to spend extra to have a home that looks good from the street. Despite what the term “curb appeal” suggests, the best aspect of a home’s exterior isn’t always the side that faces the street, and sometimes it makes sense to enhance the curb appeal of a home as seen from other vantage points. This is often the case on waterfront homes we design, and should also be considered for homes that front on a golf course, ski slope, or public park.
This lakefront home's roofline has its own subtle curb appeal
Most of our clients, now and in the past, are building homes that they want to live in for a long time. In general, they place a high value on having a home that looks good to them, their guests, and to the other residents in the neighborhood. Creating a home with enhanced curb appeal not only leads to greater owner satisfaction, it also gives the property an advantage when it comes time to sell. It is likely that a good looking home designed by a creative Architect will appeal to a new buyer as much as it did to its current owner, and that the perceived value of good design will be realized in the form of a higher contracted sale price.
Designing a home may seem like it is not difficult to do, and in the case of a basic box shape with a simple roof that may well be true. Many people who have built homes think that since they know how all the pieces go together they can design a nice home, and I’ll admit to thinking the same thing when I built homes before becoming an Architect. However, the process of creating even a moderately complex home requires very careful attention to spatial arrangement, building form, proportion, materiality, detailing, and the buildings relationship to the site. Architects have extensive training and experience in contemplating these “right brain” aspects of design and resolving them with the nuts and bolts requirements imposed by material limitations, building codes, budgets, and zoning restrictions.
What gives a home its curb appeal is subject to individual preferences, but most people would agree that the exterior presentation of a home conceived of by a skilled Architect is unmatched when measured against a similar home designed by someone with lesser credentials. Most people know better than to seek investment advice or trust their money to someone without extensive training in financial management. It seems logical to suggest that the same should hold true for choosing an Architect, to help you realize the best potential from what may be your most valuable asset, your home.
Tom Russell, Architect, LEED AP
Hendricks Architecture specializes in mountain and waterfront homes. Our home designs have been featured in and on the covers of various periodicals, including Mountain Living, Timber Home Living, Cabin Life, and Cowboys & Indians. Please visit our projects page for examples of some of our most recent projects.
Previous Post: Outdoor Living Spaces for Mountain Homes
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Outdoor Living Spaces for Mountain Homes
Written June 14, 2012 by Hendricks Architecture: Tom Russell, Architect LEED AP • Filed Under Architecture
, Mountain Architecture
Throughout its evolution, Mountain Architecture has held true to the basic idea that spending time outdoors is an essential part of quality living. One of the primary goals we strive for in designing mountain homes is to create a strong connection between the built environment and the natural landscape. In the ideal, a quality home should provide a sanctuary from the elements when necessary, and at the same time be able to open to the outdoors when conditions allow. Inhabitants should feel like they are a part of the surrounding environment, not isolated from it.
Mountain Home Outdoor Living: Decks, patios, bar, fire pits and spa
A well designed home for mountain living should be hewn from the materials at hand, harmonize with the landscape, and offer the inhabitants quality spaces both indoors and out. Depending on the local climate, covered and uncovered outdoor spaces can be mixed to provide a variety of options for relaxing, entertaining, eating or watching the sunset. In moderate climates, outdoor living rooms and kitchens can provide all the conveniences of modern life without the constraints of walls and windows. Recent trends show that homeowners place a high value on quality outdoor spaces.
Trellis over Outdoor Living Space
In just about any climate, covered outdoor space is a virtual necessity. It opens up the option to be outside when the weather isn’t great, offers a shaded place to relax on a hot sunny day, and also allows for a storage space that can be utilized year round. In many mountain and lake environments, bugs can be a deterrent to otherwise hearty lovers of the outdoors, especially in the evening. We have been designing a lot of homes with screen porches lately, including one that utilizes Phantom screens, an innovative system that rolls up and out of sight when it’s not needed. I’m particularly fond of a hallmark of old Adirondack camps – the screened sleeping porch. These seem to have lost popularity in modern times, perhaps due to the widespread use of air conditioning.
Porches, patios, and decks are another common feature in the mountain and lakefront homes we design. When the weather is good, nothing beats sitting outside reading or having a nice meal. If a home site has good views and it works with the design, we often add upper level decks or balconies to offer the occupants a place to get off the ground and enjoy an enhanced view of their world. We typically include a covered front porch as well, which offers a venue to engage with visitors and should be considered as an important social element of any home.
A Small Covered Front Porch with Mountain and Lake Views
Many of our clients want outdoor spas or hot tubs, and a deck or patio is the ideal spot to relax and have a nice soak. Some might be deterred by the thought of heading outside on a cold winter’s night to get wet, but for those willing to brave a little discomfort it can be a rewarding experience. For homes in places that have significant winter precipitation, I recommend locating a hot tub under cover but open to the outdoors. You will get a lot more use out of it during unpleasant weather, and if you put a clear roof over it or keep the roof high, it still feels like you are out in the open. My opinion was validated this winter when I watched numerous hot tubs become hopelessly buried under Schweitzer’s record snows.
Covered Patio Spa and Bar
We, like most residents of mountain resort towns in the West, live here because we enjoy being outside and connecting with the natural world. An important element in the quality of life we enjoy is the proximity to incredible outdoor environments, often right out the back door. In acknowledgement of this, we strive to create beautiful, sturdy homes that allow the inhabitants to live comfortably indoors or out regardless of the season.
Tom Russell, Architect
Bridge to Stone Deck
Hendricks Architecture specializes in the design of timber mountain style homes and cabins. Most of the homes we’ve completed are in mountain resort areas throughout the West, and have been featured in Timber Home Living, Mountain Living, Cowboys & Indians, Cabin Life and other publications. If you are interested in a mountain home, or you have any other inquiries, please contact us.
Previous Post: Lakefront Mountain Home in Northern Idaho
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Lakefront Mountain Home in Northern Idaho
Written March 12, 2012 by John Hendricks, Architect AIA • Filed Under Mountain Architecture
A lakefront mountain home Hendricks Architecture designed was recently built in Northern Idaho. The home faces north looking over Lake Pend Oreille, with great views of Sandpoint, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, and the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.
Lakefront Mountain Home
The property included an outdated lake home. The layout of the existing home and view corridors didn’t work for the owner’s tastes, and wasn’t very energy efficient, so they decided to tear it down and start over. The Owner’s mountain style home wishlist included a rustic, yet refined look on the exterior, with cedar, stone and timbers. They wanted the interior a little more modern and cozy, with well done finishes, and higher ceilings. They also wanted views from all the major rooms.
The existing home didn’t get any winter sun, so they wanted to bring in as much natural light as possible, while still maintaining some privacy. We designed in a cupola (held up by timber trusses) and a couple of dormer windows to add more natural light, along with other windows. I knew we succeeded when I showed the house to a client and they asked me why I didn’t turn the lights off when we were leaving. When I replied that they in fact were off, they gave me that wide-eyed wow look that’s always fun to see.
Two existing garages were kept, one of which was connected to the new house and given new exterior materials. A third garage was torn down to make space for construction materials, as it was a tight lot with limited access. A long mudroom/laundry/pantry connects the garage to the house. A great room, which includes an open kitchen, dining, and living areas, has breathtaking views out to the lake. The master bedroom also has great views, along with its own fireplace, and a large nook for her desk and bookshelves.
In the daylight basement below are bedrooms, an exercise room and office. The guest bedroom is a favorite, and it looks out between massive stone pillars forming an arch, which frames the water and mountain views. Because the home is on a fairly steep slope (about 30 degrees), the basement sits back against the hill. We designed mechanical and storage in the rear, and included a wine room that is so naturally cool year round that a refrigeration unit isn’t necessary.
The home was built jointly by Dan Fogerty of Sandpoint, Idaho and Denman Construction of Whitefish, Montana. Photos by Marie Dominique Verdier.
John Hendricks, AIA Architect
Hendricks Architecture, Idaho mountain architects specializing in mountain style lakefront homes and cabins. Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog.
Previous Post: Hydronic Radiant Heating
Hydronic Radiant Heating
Written February 29, 2012 by Hendricks Architecture: Tom Russell, Architect LEED AP • Filed Under Energy Efficiency
When designing a home, it is important to consider early in the process what type of climate control system the home will be using. Mechanical systems used for heating and cooling work best when they are properly sized, thoughtfully laid out, and have adequate space for all the components.
There are many options for heating and cooling a home. Many homeowners these days are opting for hydronic radiant heat systems, and we get a lot of questions from our clients about radiant heat systems and how best to configure them. Radiant heat is a great, energy efficient choice for homes where heating is the primary concern and cooling is secondary.
Hydronic Radiant Heating
Unlike forced air heating systems, radiant heating warms the objects in a space, not just the air. Because of this, the space will feel warmer and the ambient temperature can be kept lower than it would be in a space that is heated with warm air. Other benefits of radiant heat are the lack of moving air that can transport dust and allergens, and the ability of radiant heat to maintain an even temperature without noticeable fluctuations.
Hydronic radiant heating uses a central boiler to heat a fluid that is then circulated through piping concealed in the floor system. The choice of floor system is a major determinant in the performance of a hydronic radiant system, but the choice of floor system should not be based only on what type of heating the house will utilize.
The best radiant heat systems use a concrete floor slab as a thermal mass (see related concrete slab vs. wood framed floors). Heavy duty plastic tubing is embedded in a slab that is insulated both on the perimeter and on the underside. The amount of insulation depends on the local climate, the level of efficiency desired, and the budget. The biggest advantage of this system is the substantial thermal mass of the concrete slab, which will store and radiate heat over an extended period of time. The slab will also double as a collector and storage medium of any passive solar gain. On the flip side, the slab will take a while to heat up, so this type of system does not lend itself well to turning the heat down during periods of inactivity or absence.
Leaks and damage to tubing that is encased in a concrete slab can be costly and difficult to fix, but thankfully they almost never occur. Problems due to tubing failure can be mitigated by making sure the tubing is thoroughly leak tested and the slab subgrade is well compacted granular material.
When a concrete slab floor is not practical, radiant heat tubing can be embedded in 1½” or more of lightweight concrete or gypcrete poured on top of a wood framed floor. This is often done on homes that have hydronic heat on upper floors or where a crawl space and wood framed floor is necessary. Since a 4” concrete slab is too heavy to be supported by a wood framed floor, a thinner, lighter slab is used. It has significantly less thermal mass, but does provide some heat storage capacity and also helps dampen floor vibrations common with wood framed floors. Floor framing has to be more substantial for this type of application than it would be for a floor that doesn’t have to support as much weight.
For radiant heat applications where a wood framed floor is preferred or required and gypcrete overlayment is not used there are a few different options. Warmboard manufactures a plywood subfloor sheathing that has integral channels milled into it that allow radiant heat tubes to sit below the top of the subfloor. The channels are clad with sheet aluminum that radiates heat upward into the living space and makes for rapid warming of the floor above. In this sense, it outperforms the concrete embedment systems, but it lacks the thermal mass and ability to moderate temperature fluctuations. Warmboard is relatively expensive, but by most accounts it functions well and is a viable alternative when concrete or gypcrete is impractical. Misplaced nails or dropped tools can easily damage the tubing, so pressure testing is required before covering and after flooring has been installed.
The staple up radiant tubing application is the least expensive and easiest system to repair or retrofit. As a trade off, it is also the least efficient and easiest to damage. Staple up systems involve installing the tubes on the underside of the subfloor between floor joists. The tubes are held in place by staples and sometimes backed with foil faced rigid insulation or installed with integral metal heat transfer plates. In order to be reasonably efficient, a staple up system needs to have more than code required insulation in the joist bays, and shouldn’t be used where floors are cantilevered out beyond heated space below because of the potential for condensation.
Staple-up radiant heat is the least efficient.
For more on floor system options to use with hydronic radiant heating, see our article on concrete slab vs. wood framed floors.
Tom Russell, Project Architect, LEED AP
Hendricks Architecture specializes in custom mountain style homes. Our homes have been featured in Timber Home Living, Mountain Living, Green Building and Design, Cowboys & Indians, Cabin Life and other publications. We’re located in Sandpoint, Idaho. Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog
Previous Post: Concrete Slab vs. Wood Framed Floors
Concrete Slab vs. Wood Framed Floors
Written February 28, 2012 by Hendricks Architecture: Tom Russell, Architect LEED AP • Filed Under Architecture
One of the most common questions a residential architect is asked is, “Would it be better to have a concrete slab or a wood framed floor with a crawl space?” When choosing what type of floor system will be best for a project, several factors need to be considered. Site topography, where the house will be located on the site, seasonal groundwater levels, the number of floor levels the home will have, the type of heat desired, and budget constraints all need to be weighed before making a decision.
A concrete slab on grade works well on relatively level sites with a first floor (or basement) level that will be relatively close to existing grade. Since fill will need to be imported into the house footprint to bring the grade up to the underside of the slab, floors that will be high off the ground are not logical candidates for a slab on grade floor. On the other hand, if your site has a high water table, is subject to flooding, or has surface water nearby, a slab on grade floor might be your best bet. Since a concrete slab is always poured over granular fill that can’t wick water upward, they typically work well on sites where a crawl space might be susceptible to flooding, provided the floor level is high enough to be above any potential surface runoff.
Concrete Slab on Grade with Hydronic Radiant Heating
Concrete slabs are also the most efficient for hydronic radiant heating systems, as the thermal mass of the slab helps hold heat. Concrete slab floors do require that all subgrade utility rough ins be completed before the slab is poured and be accurately located. Retrofits for plumbing or mechanical changes later can be difficult and costly.
Wood framed floors with a crawlspace (or basement) below have the advantage of access to space that can be utilized for running utilities (plumbing, electrical, and ducts) and for storage. They also work well on sloping sites or where the floor level will be significantly above the existing grade. Wood framed floors require more labor and material to build, and have potential for squeaks, creaks, and vibration if they are not properly designed and constructed. A gypcrete overlay can add rigidity and a solid feel to a framed floor, but is only practical if it is used as part of a radiant heat system.
Wood Framed Floor
On wet sites or where flooding potential exists, crawl spaces and basements need to be carefully designed to reduce the potential for moisture problems. They also need to be properly ventilated or heated as if they were living space. The building code has special requirements for crawl spaces or basements that are below the 100 year flood elevation, and in some areas, homeowners insurance rates are significantly higher if a wood framed floor is used where the floor elevation is close to the flood plain elevation.
As a rule of thumb, the installed cost of a slab on grade vs. a wood framed floor with gypcrete are about the same. Installed costs are, however, subject to a lot of project specific variables that can make one system significantly more expensive for a particular application. Factors like existing soil conditions, fill requirements, hauling distances, and ease of executing the concrete pour can affect the costs of slab on grade. Similarly, local labor costs, required floor framing member sizes, and current lumber pricing will determine the cost of a framed floor system.
We are often asked if finish floor options will be limited if one floor system is chosen over the other. The short answer is “yes”, but not significantly. Some wood flooring options don’t perform as well on concrete slabs, and likewise for some hard flooring options on wood framed floors. In general, however, most flooring choices will work on either type of sub-floor and shouldn’t be a major determinant in which system you choose.
At Hendricks Architecture, we specialize in designing western mountain style lodge homes. We design homes with both concrete slabs and wood framed floors.
Tom Russell, Architect, LEED AP
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