Big Flats, NY

We designed a modest, site-attuned dwelling to Passive House standards as an extension of the family’s homesteading commitment.

Siting - The home occupies a small clearing pressed against a deep forest, sited to provide space for animals, vegetables, orchards and agriculture. We positioned the dwelling to accomplish several goals:

  • Perched by the forest edge, to encourage casual childhood adventures.
  •  Sheltered by the wooded slope to be shielded from winds.
  • Angled to collect and store winter solar rays.
  • Oriented for a welcoming, protected entry.
  • Earth-bermed to enhance insulation, direct run-off, and silence road noise.

Program - We started with a simple plan-diagram for the home - Two squares are bisected by the line of entry, then refined by need:

  • To the north is the sleeping tower. Its basic form and minimal openings respond to its prosaic         functions.
  • To the south is a single living space, lifting up to a south-facing window positioned to regulate         solar gain and to selectively frame a neighborless vista.

Optimization - To keep size to a minimum, many elements do double duty

  • The entry hall is also the main circulation spine and the mudroom. 
  •  The wheeled dining table can be tucked under the kitchen island for daily meals or pulled out         to accommodate eight or more.
  • The first floor bathroom is divided by a door into a front guest toilet with an integral sink/tank;         and a master bath beyond containing the shower and master sink.
  • The master closet is also the laundry room
  • The upstairs landing accommodates a kids’ reading nook.
  • The children can slide a single door in their bedrooms to reveal either a clothes closet or desk.

Envelope Investment - We employ extreme insulation, thermal mass, best practices for construction, and synchronized air-exchange. A wall-mounted air-source heat pump is the only heat source other than a small wood stove. A cord of firewood was the only fuel burned in littleHOUSE’s first winter.

Through all these measures, we aim to meet a family’s vision of independence, lifelong stewardship, and closeness to nature.

Contractor/Builder:  Ironwood Builders

Photography: Tim Wilkes Photography

Size: 1,200 sf