As I think back to October of last year, when I first drove down a narrow dirt road and got a glimpse of the 43-acre parcel of land that would be the site for a new home, I knew then that this project would be different. Having been an architect for 25 years, my firm has designed and constructed many different styled homes. However, clients rarely ever challenged me to design a house that holistically integrated with the land around it. Ultimately, I was told, the project must leave the land better than it was before. “We are merely stewards of the land while we are here,” my client, Jason, said to me, and with these words, I was tasked to create a structure with permanence ever conscious of our transience on earth.
Having spent 39 years in real estate, I am no stranger to conversations about moving from the hustle and bustle of a town or city to the open spaces afforded by the countryside. Sometimes, people tell me they want a certain type of home—a stately Georgian, charming Victorian or sprawling country estate. Other times, they talk to me about land—a property with elevation, rolling hills, or surrounded by a woodland. When I first met Jason and Deborah, I recall thinking that I had never spoken with two people so determined to find both—the right house and parcel of land–in their pursuit of a modern homestead, where life is just as much about the land as the home.
As I sketched out a new rendering of the homestead, lifestyle and convenience certainly remained factors, but were no longer the primary drivers of the design. The priorities of the passive house would be guided by sustainability, energy-efficiency and the home’s integration with the land surrounding it.
During a time when many small businesses are collapsing under the weight of the global pandemic, “source local” is a philosophy that has become more important than ever. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Jason and Deborah detailed an original concept for the project and their intention to use materials to build the home that were sustainable and produced or harvested within 500-miles of the property.