AIA Gainesville Merit Award, 2007

Project Objective

Meta-house engages transformative cultures through phenomenological modes toward sustainable living at the scale of the house. Enmeshed civic, perma-, economic, family, poly-, aqua-, social and techno- cultures, like deep ecology, provide ‘phenomenal’ suburban living opportunities, simple efficiencies, and the potential for sustainability.

More akin to Alvar Aalto’s humanist architecture, Meta-house connects us to the poetics of practical efficiency rather than aestheticizing an objective reality in the fashion of Le Corbusier’s Machine for Living. Advancing toward positive cultural engagement in sustainability, Meta-house proposes technological infrastructures that ‘close the loop’ to produce usable outputs, reduce outside inputs and define architectural space.

Project Development

The climate supports a host of potential edible landscaping. Aquiculture, stocked with ‘sun bass’ provides one of the most efficient human protein sources available. The pond can provide evaporative cooling in the short hot summer as air is drawn over it through convective ventilation strategies. All the while, we are enjoying a landscape most people vacation to. Sustainability, at this scale, is likely not feasible with short design lifetimes. Meta-house is designed to last 100+ years.

Rather than rely solely on constantly advancing technological gadgets, Meta-house engages traditional ecological strategies that connect to and moderate, rather than separate us from the environment. Appropriating the high maintenance suburban lawn, Meta-house establishes fruit and vegetable polycultures to not only provide edible nutrients but also to absorb and recycle biomass waste outputs. Peanuts, from landscape shrubs, can provide as many nutrients and twice the calories per pond as sirloin steak.

Project Design

The innovation in Meta-house comes through integrating site, orientation, ecology, and architectural protocols. Opening the public spaces of the house to the park makes an important gesture to relink ‘house’ to public life.

The southern exposure allows direct solar heating of the space during the winter and shade from the sun during the summer. This natural energy flow is maximized by the double-skin window systems. Simple recycled glass without expensive coatings can be used. Strategic manipulation of these architectural systems provides optimal passive moderation of the interior comfort over a range of exterior conditions. Like seasonal clothes, this activity registers in the facade of the park enlivening the civic space.

Facade Design

Meta-house is not a Luddite. The latest monocrystalline photovoltaic panels are incorporated providing up to 20% solar to electric efficiency. A coal-burning power plant is about 0.01% efficient at the same process.

The panels are deployed to shade east-facing openings in the mid-morning and the court in the afternoon. A ground-loop heat pump is deployed for heating and cooling during periods when architectural strategies will not meet environmental stresses. Of course, all high-efficiency appliances with low embodied energy, limited toxic containment and outputs, and high recyclability would be selected.

Sustainable Elements in Design

Meta-house is wrapped in 60 – 80% recycled materials including copper roof and siding and glass. Metal framing, rock-wool insulation, and bamboo wood finishes for floors and cabinets are also incorporated. The Factor four principle of doubling productivity while halving resource use is a guiding concept in the design. Meta-house transcends the objectivity of this concept engaging us in the poetry of moments in a process, a magnitude, that as the phenomenologists point out, cannot be factored in.

A large west separated wall and limited exposures on the west facade optimize the rejection of radiant heat from this harsh exposure. All living spaces have at least two exposure access with operable windows, both high and low that optimize aerodynamic and convection-driven ventilation.