First off let me acknowledge that I need to start working on better names for my projects … first it was the ‘KHouse Modern‘ and now we have the ‘CHouse Modern.’ … Pathetic really for someone who considers themselves to be a creative person.
We have a project that broke ground a few weeks ago and I decided that I would cover here on the site. Normally I only focus on one project at a time but there are things about the CHouse Modern that I think will make it worth exposing to people who visit this website. This project will be constructed using SIP’s (Structurally Insulated Panels), we are using a post tension structural slab, the owner will be extremely active in the construction process, and we are targeting a total construction cost somewhere in the $200 per square foot range.
See? Could be pretty interesting.
We build a lot of physical models in my office – and I am really glad that we do. There is no doubt that our clients love them, but that’s not the only reason why we build them. Clients respond to these models in a very different way than when we just show them 3-dimensional computer images of their projects. So without any more prattling on by yours truly, let’s get to what this house actually looks like ~
This house sits on the extreme point of a circular street, which means that all but one side appears as a front yard. The view above is technically the most public view from the street. We are building on top of a hill where the previous house occupied and the site falls off in all directions except one. Eventually I’ll include some plans of the project, the owner has given me permission so as soon as I get someone else to get into the system and clean them up for me for presentation you’ll get to see them. There is a pool in the front yard with all the main living spaces and Master Bedroom looking out into this area (large windows on the right). The wing to the left is a Dining Room and an outside attached pavilion and grill area.
The second floor has all the extra bedrooms and bathrooms – each bedroom space has a light monitor in the ceiling. You can start to see how the grade falls off around the house – the site is covered in trees and sitting on this elevated plinth feels like you are in the treetops.
This view of the house is the one side that isn’t particularly visible to the public and eventually there will be pool equipment and air-conditioning compressors located to the far left (by the garage).
This is the entry to the house and the garage (shown to the right). There is an architectural covered trellis on the front of the garage to help visually soften the appearance of the garage. If you want to know how this trellis might look, here is the basic concept [Modern Trellis] that I covered on the site April 2012 – which turned out terrific.
The driveway from the street leads into a motor court just off the front entry. You can see that we are cutting into the hill a bit (look for the retaining wall on the right hand side in the model view above.) The first level of the house will be primarily a dark iron-spot brick with the second level switching to masonry stucco. The “boxes” you see around the windows are envisioned as aluminum or steel plate – the geometry of this project is fairly rigid and we are accentuating the openings by designing a protruding enclosure around each penetration into the main volume of the house.
Thought I would include a plan view of the model … and for the OCD observant among you, that’s a chimney stack coming out of the roof, not a tree.
Construction on this project just started and we have begun the construction observation period of the project. Our first visit out to the site was two weeks ago as the foundation was just beginning.
This is looking down the site towards the curve in the street. There is a 16′ drop from the front door to the street elevation at the bottom of the site, so the views looking out really are looking into the tree tops.
Rough grading of the site with the foundation form boards laid in place. Today the contractor is starting the process of drilling 56 piers on site.
We have a post tensioned structural slab foundation on this project and these are the post tension cables. Post tension construction was introduced in France in the 1930’s and was first used in the US some time starting in the 1950’s. Concrete shrinks as it cures (hardens) and the result is typically cracks. One of the positives to using a post tensioned slab (other than it’s relatively lower cost over pier and beam foundation) is that the tendons (the blue cables shown above) compress the concrete and the formation of visible shrinkage cracks can be greatly reduced. Without getting to technical, the tendons are placed in the slab prior to pouring the concrete. After the concrete has cured, tension is applied to the steel cable on one side that puts the steel under tension and the concrete under compression, and then the cable is permanently anchored in place.
Since the CHouse Modern has an exposed (polished and waxed) concrete floor, how we decided to structurally build the foundation led us to selecting a post tensioned slab. This is actually the first project that I have done construction administration on that uses this type of construction method and so I am keeping a close eye on how things come together.
We have an extremely hands-on owner for this project – which I am on the record as stating that I love it when I have a heavily engaged client. When we were on site last Friday, I found out that she had been reading ‘Life of an Architect’ prior to moving from Colorado and deciding to start this project. Needless to say, we both think that is pretty cool and she is excited to have the construction of her project featured.
All of the work that is coming up through the slab needs to be in place so before the concrete can be poured, the electrical and plumbing rough-in needs to be completed. This is a crucial step because of the accuracy of the rough-in needs to be as exact as possible – we don’t want to have to move a bathroom wall a few inches to hide a pipe that should be hidden in the wall but isn’t … that would suck.
We are going to have weekly job site meetings for a while, getting the slab right will go a long ways towards keeping things right as the project is built. This next week – weather permitting – the electrical and plumbing rough should be completed and form boards adjusted and set to prepare for the actual concrete pour. There will probably be lots to show here in the beginning, particularly when the SIP’s start getting installed – I know I am looking forward to that.