Debra Rucker Coleman, Architect
Net Zero Kitchen Finds Its Sweet Spot
- from Cultivate - By Rita, selected comments from her article about their RISE home
"Sean and I knew we wanted to build a passive solar house and needed a property with great southern exposure. After two years of searching, we found a dream property that boasted a beautiful open meadow. We hired architect Debbie Coleman of Sun Plans and started designing our passive solar house. We focused on a craftsman design and added a clerestory, bump outs, angled entry and window design, all aspects accentuating our new meadow.
"The house continued to evolve with a clerestory for passive cooling (windows at the height of the house let warm air escape while drawing in cooler air from below) and an open loft that would be partially over the kitchen. We found a supply of reclaimed lumber from a factory built in 1836 that was dismantled and matched with a few timbers from our own property.
"Early on, Sean and I agreed on an overall construction workflow in which he focused on home energy design, and me, on interior design, including the kitchen layout. I was getting close. I only had a few more layout changes when the worrying kicked into overdrive. How would it all look when installed (permanently, mind you) into my new kitchen? I started coloring materials and surfaces textures onto the construction prints and elevation drawings, trying to get a sense of the final look. I was driving Sean and Debbie nuts. (Architect's note: I enjoy clients who like to be intimately involved with their house details and to explore options.)
"I changed the placements of window, cabinet, oven, pot rack and refrigerator locations, concerned about light and balance, only to discover something would be in conflict with the range hood that had to be placed in one location because of the loft and screen porch frame outside. The house was becoming a machine with fixed elements that were defining aspects of my kitchen.
"As the foundation was poured, decisions constantly needed my answers to keep the construction process flowing. Tom was patient, but he and his crew thought I was crazy as each day I threw out new ideas of trim design, lighting and backsplash.
"Meanwhile, Sean had focused on a masonry heater as our primary heat source, along with the passive solar. (We also have an efficient electric mini-split system for back up.) We selected a kit from Empire Stoves that came with a built-in pizza oven!
"As materials were installed, the crew would exclaim, "Wow, this really works. It looks great!" With a huge sigh of relief and a defining clap of delight when something new got installed, it finally came together in 3D.
"Fast forward to today (Nov 2013). We've been in the house for almost a year, and I can confidently say that I love my kitchen. I not only discovered my true design tastes (sorry, Mom!), but I learned that you don't have to forgo style for environmental efficiency. Sean did a fabulous job with the energy design and balanced out our transitional-meets-contemporary-meets-rustic dream house.
"Best of all: we have not paid an electric bill. In fact, we are earning money back."
Their hard-working, accommodating builder was Thomas Sandretzky, TS Construction, of Shenandoah Junction, WV.
The energetic PV solar installer was
Photos by Rita and Sean, and Matt Hovermale, Multimedia Director for MTVSolar.