Southern homes require verandahs--or if not verandahs, at least a front porch. This home has both. The exterior backyard by the southern corner of the lower level functions as an indoor/outdoor verandah.
"Here the indoors and outdoors really meet," says Akin. "I can't imagine anyone not loving to be out here." The verandah is adjacent to the pool and an indoor wet bar and mini-fridge. Upholstered furniture and leather-covered chaise lounges make the room feel like both an interior and exterior space.
The openings of the verandah, draped with floor-to-ceiling fabric and an upholstered swing anchored from the ceiling, encourages lingering outside on gentle Southern nights. "Everywhere in the house the outdoors comes in and the indoors flows out. It is one of the most important aspects to the theme of the home," says Akin.
Kids are helping builders make sales. With that trend in mind, the design team made a children's retreat on the third floor to encourage children to fall in love with the house (and then sell the home to their parents). The space boasts two bedrooms, two baths, a play and study space, an upstairs laundry area, a loft, and enough room to add more bedrooms.
The main area is made of a giant laminate checkerboard with 15-inch squares. A game, study, and storage area with a TV flanks the south wall, where views of downtown Atlanta are easy to spot through the trees.
"This is the perfect zone in the house to let your trades and subcontractors really have fun with their ideas," says Horstemeyer. She was impressed with the enthusiasm her trim and carpentry teams brought to the house and in particular to the children's areas.
One bedroom opens to a kid-sized loft above--but no adults allowed. The spiral staircase leading up to it was designed for the width of small bodies only. Clever trim craftsmen hand-carved spoke-like ship wheels into the rails. Rope insets corded through the openings of the rails reflect the nautical theme. "We told our trim contractors to push the envelope, and they did. That's what more builders should do. Our trades want to be more creative. We should empower them to do more."
Island modern meets Victorian in the second bedroom. The lower half of the wall is covered in white bead board, while the quirky border is hand-painted in fun colors.
Accessibility and livability remain high on the list of concerns for move-up buyers. As boomers reach second-career status and retirement age, handicap accessibility is becoming more visible in new housing.
The home meets this concern with a sensitively designed guest suite. Adjacent to the keeping room and kitchen, and with full access to the entire first level, the guest suite is designed with "visit-ability" in mind. "Visit-ability is a newly coined term that means that someone who is disabled could visit the home and still have accessibility to most of the home," says Horstemeyer.
The suite features wider doors, a zero-threshold clearance, an ADA-approved toilet, handheld shower fixtures, and 360-degree clearance at the shower door. "It is not universal design, but it is a huge benefit for buyers who may have this as a present or future concern." Because of these features, the home received an EasyLiving seal from the Georgia Builders Association and the Georgia AARP.
"Ideally what this EasyLiving seal means is that the home features a zero-step entrance of half an inch for a standard door or three quarters of an inch for a sliding door. This allows access to and from a driveway, sidewalk, patio, garage, or other firm route into the central living area," says Horstemeyer. "It also means that the home is readily accessible. At least one bedroom, the kitchen, some entertainment space, and a bathroom with sufficient maneuvering room are all on the accessible floor." Passing throughout the central living areas is also easy because interior doors provide a 32-inch opening.
The guest suite bath continues the islands' theme of the home's architecture. White octagonal and dot pattern ceramic tiles grace the walls and floors, and the vanity faucet features a cascade waterfall spout. The bathroom was designed to ADA specifications with a roll-in shower and wheelchair-accessible sink.
Behind the walls
The island/plantation-style rooms sequester scores of earth-friendly, energy-resourceful systems and technologies that make the home uniquely efficient.
"The building industry is much more sensitive and sensible about energy efficiency in homes," says Akin. "Recent energy issues have only made us try harder to save homeowners money by building tighter houses."
A 12 SEER HVAC system was built to specifications and guidelines from both the Department of Energy's Building America and the Atlanta HBA's EarthCraft House programs. (The latter made its national debut in the press with TNAH '01.)
Both programs were included in the design and construction of the home and include six major processes and systems for creating an earth-friendly home: energy efficiency, water conservation, healthy internal air, durability, low maintenance, and homeowner/buyer education.
The HVAC system was installed for high-efficiency cooling and heating. Sealed ductwork has a maximum 5 percent duct leakage, and the sealed building envelope allows a maximum of only .35 air changes per hour. This balance of air flow coming in and out of the home is further enhanced by a manual D duct design--a customized system that allows air to flow only where it is needed. A radiant heat barrier in the roof keeps the home cool.
To accommodate the more than 6,000 square feet of living space, the home has dual furnaces and air conditioning units. Both are located in a basement utility zone. A five-ton Lennox HVAC unit serves three zones (basement, kitchen, and master suite), and a four-ton HVAC unit tends to the front half of the main floor and the upstairs rooms.
Hot and cold
To achieve better cooling and heating without adding substantial equipment costs, the home's HVAC system designers and construction team used generous amounts of insulation. For example, a super-insulated zoned HVAC system meant that the TNAH team could reduce the size and number of the HVAC units. If they had used standard design and equipment, the home might have needed as many as five HVAC units instead of two.
"With smaller heating and cooling equipment, it is important to have a sizeable trunk line and make it as long as possible to assure adequate air flow," says Mark Newey of the Southface Energy Institute in Atlanta. Newey works with Southface in promoting EarthCraft. "To maximize the benefits, builders should be sure that the systems are not restricted in any way."
Two design elements allowed the use of fewer and smaller HVAC units: the well-insulated living space, which reduces the overall need for heated or conditioned air, and the zoned system. Variable-speed motors in the HVAC equipment also push more air through the network if more than one zone is open at a same time.
Separate zones reduce peak demand on each furnace and air conditioning unit. For example, the living space and the master suite are not typically used at the same time. Demand in the guest suite on the first floor can also be reduced when that area is not being used.
"I'm a big fan of zoning units," Horstemeyer says. "Homes this size require their flexibility and quiet zoning. I didn't realize the system was on one day until I noticed a piece of plastic fluttering in one of the registers," she says.
Zoned for comfort
The heart of the acoustical and energy-efficient duct system is the extended plenum or trunk line. Instead of the typical 2-foot-by-2-foot, box-like plenum that sits atop the furnace and air conditioning unit in a standard HVAC system, the house has an enlarged plenum made from fiberglass duct boards. Insulated flexible duct run-outs from the plenum carry warm or cool air to individual rooms.
Each zone of the home has a thermostat, and each thermostat is connected to and communicates with the others 24 hours a day through a central communication interface board. This board receives and coordinates information from the different zones as to how the systems are operating. Dampers in each zone open and close as needed to deliver heated or cooled air as required.
One important benefit of the enlarged fiberglass duct system is the ease with which air can be moved through the system. By specifying fiberglass duct board for the plenum or trunk lines, the designers could be confident that the correct amount of air was delivered to the ends of the runs.
In addition to providing the ease of flow and thermal performance the designers wanted, the extended duct board system also offers enhanced acoustic performance. The duct board helps absorb HVAC system noise, including air rush, because of the dense insulation used on the outside of the metal duct system and on the duct board. Horstemeyer says that buyers expect quieter units for their home offices, home theaters, and large-screen media components.
The zoned system also uses fiberglass duct board for the chases that return air to the heating and cooling equipment. This helps minimize or eliminate the "cross talk" or noise that can travel from one room to another through a home's duct system.
Cross talk can be an annoying surprise to many homeowners who thought they bought a quiet home. While they may have insulated interior walls and installed quiet appliances and thick, padded carpeting throughout the home, they may find that television, stereo, and video game sounds make their way through duct systems. "Non-insulated metal ducts can work like megaphones," says Akin.
The duct system was designed by IBACOS, a building science organization based in Pittsburgh. The design was approved by Atlanta's Southface Energy Institute. Southface also helped interpret the design requirements and provided on-site liaison and support for John Wieland Homes during the construction process. The home is 30 percent more energy efficient than the current energy code requires and has a HERS (home energy rating system) rating of 91 from the DOE. The average score is 80 out of a zero to 100 range. The HERS rating is a uniform measuring system for energy use developed by DOE.
Both programs seek to assist and educate builders as to how to effectively reduce the energy costs in their house by up to 50 percent, while at the same time enhancing indoor air quality, durability, and productivity. TNAH team incorporated additional environmental features so the home would qualify as a DOE Building America and EarthCraft house.
The comprehensive smaller HVAC system in the home includes insulation, air purifiers, and energy-efficient technologies that save money for the homeowner as well as reduce construction costs for the building team.
The home also features a steam humidifier with a heating element and a fresh air exchanger. The exchanger draws heat or coolness from stale air exiting the system and conditions fresh air that is pulled into the system. "Having fresh air exchangers is important so the house is not too tight and the air doesn't get stale," says Horstemeyer.
A germicidal light with ultraviolet rays kills mold, mildew, bacteria, and germs before they enter the system. High-efficiency air cleaners trap materials after they pass through the UV light.
The busy family on the go will benefit from the home's automation system. The Home and Away System from Honeywell lets homeowners enjoy their ideal home environment and stay connected to their home from anywhere in the world courtesy of two in-home Web cameras.
"Homeowners can access the secure system through any PC with Internet access," says Horstemeyer. "The system allows residents to adjust the temperature, check in on the family, monitor the home security system, alter lighting, and even adjust appliances." This brain for the home can also accommodate appliances or technologies that are added later.
An integral part of the home management system is the Home Controller gateway, which works with the home network and structured wiring system.