This vacation residence on the Rhode Island coast packs performance-enhancing features and an inviting contemporary aesthetic into a pared-down package. Architect Stephanie T. Horowitz designed the compact form to provide exceptional energy efficiency, keep costs low, and meet the client’s request for a small environmental footprint.

The smart, streamlined design loads plenty of storage and amenities into the 1,300-square-foot retreat, including two bedrooms plus a sleeping loft; two bathrooms; and an open kitchen, dining, and living area. The interplay of warm, comfortable interiors and high-performance features created a synergy the judges couldn’t resist. “There is a harmony here between design and performance,” they raved.

The jury was equally impressed with the combination of Passive House-inspired strategies that reduced the home’s heating requirements to one-tenth that of a similar new code-built home.

Project planners relied on exceptional insulation (R-44 walls, R-50 foundation, R-60 roof), extreme attention to thermal bridging and air sealing, and ultra-efficient windows. By siting the house for maximum solar gain (while optimizing a north-facing view), Horowitz and her team reduced the heating needs to a single 10-HSPF Mitsubishi air source heat pump.

For healthy indoor air in such a tightly built dwelling, Horowitz included a Zehnder ComfoAir 200 HRV, polished concrete floors, and zero-VOC Poggenpohl kitchen cabinets. Other sustainable products include recycled quartz countertops, a heat-pump water heater, a high-efficiency washer and condensing dryer, and WaterSense-certified plumbing fixtures and toilets.