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Feldman Architecture’s Walnut Farms Retreat Strikes Rammed Earth Gold
San Francisco-based Feldman Architecture creates beautiful and sustainable modern homes using a palette of durable materials like concrete, stone, natural wood, and powder-coated steel. One of the current projects in the firm’s resume of homes is the Walnut Farms Retreat located in the Central Valley of California near the San Andres Fault. Like many of its predecessors, the Walnut Farms Retreat is slated to be certified by the USGBC’s LEED rating system, and as Feldman Architecture’s Principal, Jonathan Feldman, AIA, states, “the client was quick to jump into certification”. The 6649-square-foot project is designed to be carbon neutral with a net-zero solar electrical system, geothermal radiant heating and cooling, a solar hot water system, and rammed earth walls.
After visiting the website of Feldman Architecture it is no wonder that the firm keeps getting asked to produce such wonderful works of sustainable design. Images of playful, light-filled interiors rotate back and forth with landscape-framed homes composed of traditional material palettes. According to Feldman, the Walnut Farms Retreat is the largest project that Feldman Architecture has designed. “The complexity of the systems within this home is something you don’t get until you get commercial in size”, Feldman stated with an intonation of thankfulness that the project had been so successful.
The design and form of the retreat is unique, though, because of its rammed earth walls. The multicolored walls stand tall and proud against the surrounding hills, giving a layered since of history to the very volatile San Andres Fault landscape. The rammed earth walls help to passively heat and cool the massive structure in order to reduce the energy load of the building. Feldman Architecture worked with contractor Stocker & Allaire, and rammed earth consultant Benchmark Development to battle tough building department regulations to make these walls soar. As Feldman put it, “the rammed earth was almost srapped at the last minute, but we loved how it looked and how sustainable it was to use the site’s soil to build the home”.
The fight with the building department paid off, and this home will be open for the clients soon. The family retreat has eight bedrooms and seven and half bathrooms, and it’s sure to be enjoyed for decades to come. Thanks to the client’s willingness and Feldman’s sustainability-minded team, the Walnut Farms Retreat is currently being considered for LEED Gold certification.
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