The exterior of InSite. Click on the links to the left to learn more about specific aspects of the home.
InSite offers an innovative and replicable approach to solar-powered living. We have taken the solar panels from their conventional place on the roof to create an exterior “Solar Path.” The path passes along the southern front of InSite to forge a pedestrian connection between the town of Middlebury and the college campus. Thus, the “Solar Path” provides power for our home while encouraging walkability in the community. This unique approach to sustainable architecture immediately demonstrates the flexible potential of residential solar power to all passerby.
To transport InSite from Middlebury, VT to Irvine, CA we have designed a panel system that is supported and joined by a steel structure. This structure composes the “skeleton” of the home, but is visible on the interior. By carefully designing and deliberately exposing the steel connections we encourage visitor’s to learn the intricacies of InSite’s construction while creating an elegant pattern throughout the entire home.
Our walls are 14-in thick and filled with densely-packed cellulose insulation to ensure a comfortable and stable indoor environment. We utilize this thickness to shade the southern windows through thick sills. The dining-nook wall is deeply inset to provide shade in the area with the most glazing. “Pulling” this very transparent wall back into the home compromises approachability with intimacy. In between the bedrooms we use the thick walls to create a window seat that “punches” out of the home while offering the occupants a pleasant space exposed to the natural surroundings. Immersed in the warm sun or the falling snow, the window seat is a moment of contemplative refuge. The dynamic juxtaposition of the dining-nook and window seat physically marks the division between public and private life within the home.
The home rises in three distinct forms: the public space, the private space, and the “chimney core.” We have intentionally designed small bedrooms to encourage residents to live a social lifestyle in the larger public space. InSite’s entrance features a overhanging roof to create a feeling of comfortable transition – once visitors enter the public living space the ceiling opens to the South – expanding the interior with abundant natural Southern light. Exposed steel beams guide the inhabitant or visitor back into the private space where the ceiling drops for a more intimate experience.
To reduce waste and increase efficiency, we have centralized the mechanical systems of the home into one modular unit. All appliances “plug-in” to this core for water and energy needs. Not only does this form contain all of our active systems, but so too enables passive cooling by means of its height and exterior vents – creating a chimney-effect. We chose the chimney form out of respect for prevalent Vermont vernacular, simultaneously highlighting our interpretation of the 21st century “energy hearth.”
ArchitectureOur attention to a locally-focused design has lead InSite to grow from its place. From form to materials, the home is inspired by Middlebury, VT and Shannon Street - its future home after the competition. Our design aims to engage the community while also offering the privacy and comforts that appeal to the 21st Century home buyer. With the Five Points of InSiteful Design as our guiding principles, InSite is an elegant example of the future of residential architecture – a future that respects environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
Active Climate Control
InSite’s heating and air-conditioning system uses an air-to-air heat exchanger which operates much like a refrigerator; the compression and expansion of a coolant as it moves between the inside and outside of the home is used to absorb and remove heat – simultaneously cooling air which is then circulated internally. In the cooler months, the system operates in reverse, forcing heat into the air inside the house.
Providing ventilation without releasing the conditioned air from the house can be a significant problem in houses with tight building envelopes. InSite addresses this problem by using an energy recovery ventilator (ERV), a machine that uses stale outgoing air to dry and condition incoming air. In the winter, the warm outgoing air heats the incoming air before it enters the house, while in summer the hot incoming air is cooled and dehumidified.
InSite’s tight building envelope consists of 14 inches of environmentally friendly cellulose insulation, a high-performance Intello vapor retarder, FSC-certified plywood, and locally-sourced reclaimed barn wood. These thick walls moderate temperatures in summer and winter, reduce heating and cooling demands, while also exhibiting the beauty of recycled materials.
Energy Efficient Appliances
We have centralized all major appliances adjacent to the mechanical chimney to increase efficiency and simplify installation – reducing the amount of wiring, ductwork and plumbing. Only ENERGY STAR qualified products are used in InSite, keeping the house’s energy budget low without compromising resident satisfaction.
Passive Climate Control
The first priority in any efficient home should be passive systems that reduce energy demand without expensive maintenance. InSite employs an 18-inch roof and a 14-inch wall cavity that uses TJI structural members to reduce thermal bridging. InSite’s 48 wall panels use the Huber ZIP integrated sheathing-air penetration barrier to ensure a tight, leak-free envelope. InSite’s north-sloping roof minimizes exposure to Vermont’s cold northern winter winds along the façade, while the glazing on the southern façade is carefully sized to provide the optimal balance of heat over the course of the year. Windows and vents placed high in the mechanical module create the “chimney effect” for unwanted hot air, while vents placed low on the shaded north side allow cool air to enter and flow through the house on hot days.
TechnologyWe envision a neighborhood of homes that work with their regional climates to minimize energy use. Via passive building strategies, InSite harnesses the sun, wind, and rain. Where active equipment is necessary, we carefully chose technologies that would best meet InSite’s heating and cooling needs.
PEX piping is a plumbing system that is frequently used in panelized systems, as it is ideal for structures that have to be taken apart and then reassembled, just like InSite will be. The pipes are plastic, recyclable, flexible, replaceable, easy to assemble, and can be color-coded.
The InSite team has chosen reclaimed Vermont barn wood for our home’s siding to demonstrate our commitment to recycled materials with low embodied energy. It is a sturdy and beautiful material cut from old growth forests that has stood the test of time – protecting its previous structure from the elements.
Cellulose is a type of insulation made completely of recycled paper and wood products. Of all insulation materials available, it has the least embodied energy. Moreover, unlike typical fiberglass insulation, cellulose can be pumped into wall cavities – filling every nook and cranny of the wall for maximum thermal efficiency.
Our maple floors were harvested from our very own Middlebury College-owned forest on the Bread Loaf campus. After logging the maple trees in Ripton, VT we milled them in Bristol, VT – the entire process occurred within a mere ten miles of our campus and build site in Middlebury!