Evelyn Lee

THE 505 HOUSE: Award Winning Sustainable Design

by , 03/22/07

The 505, Collaborative Designworks, Sustainable Housing, AIA Housing Awards


Collaborative Designworks
in Houston, Texas proves that sustainable design practices can lead to award-winning architecture. Their 505 Housing was recently one of the 19 recipients of the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) 2007 Housing Awards, winning 1st prize in the One-and Two-Family Production Homes category. Now in its seventh year, the award recognizes the best of the best in housing design while promoting the importance of housing as “a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit, and a valuable national resource.”


The 505, Collaborative Designworks, Sustainable Housing, AIA Housing Awards

The 505 incorporates 4 units on a site eligible to hold 5, allowing space for yards and optimum utilization of daylight due to the reduction of shared walls. Each window was placed to maximize views, let in a considerable amount of daylight, maintain each unit’s individual privacy, and provide natural cross-ventilation. Other sustainable ideas deployed in the design of The 505 include permeable ground coverings, stack-vented rain-screens on the east and west facades, radiant barrier roofing, recycled/sustainable materials and finishes, tank-less water heaters, and high-efficiency appliances and equipment.

+ AIA’s 2007 Housing Awards
+ Collaborative Designworks

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13 Comments

  1. Theo April 13, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Sorry for the long delay in reply Blair – in response to your questions:

    1. Utility bills. In Houston, it seems that most people accept that these are going to be pretty big in the summer. I’m sure we could peg the meter so to speak as well, but keeping it in the low seventies usually results in about $200/month for the hot period. I’d rather it be zero of course, but this seems more than reasonable for our climate and size of house, and the fact that all the energy saving schemes are passive. Maybe we’ll try some active systems in the future – the roof slope should support installation of either solar panels or a green roof system. With the area available for solar we might be able to knock off 10-15% of the bill.

    2. Open deck. I’d say it’s usable about 7 months of the year, weather permitting. It does actually get cold in Houston in the winter, so a couple of months are out there. Our August and September are pretty miserable outside even in the shade. Based on experience last summer I think the white exterior of the house tends to reflect a lot of sunlight into this area. The townhome is oriented on a north/south axis, the rear faces south.

    3. Headlights in the drive. This is an interesting point but isn’t a problem in practice. There is a low wall separating the dining room from the alcove/foyer space… when you’re seated this blocks direct view of the driveway for the most part. Also, at night time with the interior lighting on you don’t really notice the outside lights very much. Also, the dining room is not in the living room/kitchen flow, it’s off to the side, so when the lights are out (watching TV at night for instance), there doesn’t seem to be any spillover from people in the drive.

    One further comment re. the mature trees…. pecan trees on a metal roof is not a good combination! In the master bedroom, the space between the interior ceiling and exterior roof is minimized – there’s no attic or crawlspace for the roof above this room. This gives a great feel in the room and allows a large set of windows, but that pecan trees dropping nuts on the roof just about drove ME nuts. Rain on the roof is soothing (though might not be for all people I guess) but the nuts were too much. We ended up pruning the offending branches, resulting in quieter nights and some good barbeque wood.

    Theo

  2. Blair March 28, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Theo,
    Thanks for contributing your perspective. It’s great to get a first-hand impression of this building, especially from an actual resident.

    The issue that Paul S. and I were discussing relates to aesthetics vs. functionality. His point about open staircases and exterior shading raises the concern about the energy cost of modern versus traditional design. The efficiency question is something of a red herring. Efficiency, as it relates to the interior conditioned air is dependent on a properly spec’d HVAC, not on design per se. A residential load calculation (Manual J) was likely performed on the 505 house to determine the appropriate size and configuration of the ac. This calculation should ostensibly mitigate some of the alleged interior design challenges that Paul S. referred to. The other contributors relate to the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) of the ac; the quality control of the contractor(s) who installed the HVAC system; and the nature of the system itself ie. Programmable t-stats, zoned HVAC, duct insulation etc.

    The building envelope is another matter altogether, and if the product literature is to be believed the 505 house should prove to mitigate several factors that contribute to HVAC demand.
    «Natural cross-ventilation», «permeable ground coverings», «stack-vented rain-screens on the East & West facades» and «radiant barrier roofing»!
    In addition to these there is the canopy provided by matures trees surrounding the lot, and if I’m not mistaken, the Venturi effect created by the cavity in the middle of the site.

    I’d like to hear your impressions of the utility cost Theo. Does your electricy bill live up to the promise? I’d also be interested to hear whether the open deck was usable year-round. Does the rear of your unit face South or North?

    The other thing I’m curious about is whether car headlights bother you at night. It’s hard to tell from the available media but it would seem that when cars drive up the middle of the building the lights might intrude on the second floor dining area…

  3. Blair March 28, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Theo,
    Thanks for contributing your perspective. It’s great to get a first-hand account of this building, especially from an actual resident.

    The issue that Paul S. and I were discussing relates to aesthetics vs. functionality. His point about open staircases and exterior shading raises the concern about the energy cost of modern versus traditional design. The efficiency question is something of a red herring. Efficiency, as it relates to the interior conditioned air is dependent on a properly spec’d HVAC, not on design per se. A residential load calculation (Manual J) was likely performed on the 505 house to determine the appropriate size and configuration of the ac. This calculation should ostensibly mitigate some of the alleged interior design challenges that Paul S. referred to. The other contributors relate to the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) of the ac; the quality control of the contractor(s) who installed the HVAC system; and the nature of the system itself ie. Programmable t-stats, zoned HVAC, duct insulation etc.

    The building envelope is another matter altogether, and if the product literature is to be believed the 505 house should prove to mitigate several factors that contribute to HVAC demand.
    «Natural cross-ventilation», «permeable ground coverings», «stack-vented rain-screens on the East & West facades» and «radiant barrier roofing»!
    In addition to these there is the canopy provided by the matures trees surrounding the lot, and if I’m not mistaken, the Venturi effect created by the cavity in the middle of the site.

    I’d like to hear your impressions of the utility cost Theo. Does your electricy bill live up to the promise? I’d also be interested to hear whether the open deck was usable year-round. Does the rear of your unit face South or North?

    The other thing I’m curious about is whether you are bothered by car headlights at night. It’s hard to tell from the available media but it would seem that when cars drive up the middle of the building the lights might intrude on the second floor dining area…

  4. Theo March 26, 2007 at 11:57 am

    I live in unit C – back left from the front elevation photo and the one prominently shown in the empty lot photo (empty lot is now filled with a small private schoolhouse). Jim the architect and I were college friends.

    Bill L. – regarding the rest of the neighborhood, if you’re in the Houston area have a drive down W. Alabama sometime. In the very immediate area, we have a dry cleaners, deli, $99/first week’s rent apartments, light rail stop, Texas Historic Site 100yr old mansions (some maintained and some in disrepair), a Blue Bird Circle resale center, a few convenience stores, reptile store, and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. It’s a very mixed and eclectic area (though no McMansions that I have seen). There’s not a huge amount of new construction going on in the immediate surroundings, but if you move 1/2 mile away there are numerous town home projects going on. Most are of the Perry Homes type. The adjacent house is not the norm for the area, but there are other examples like this. It’s actually a garage with two efficiency apartments above. The style I would charitably call “about to fall down” – I would guess it’s from the late 60′s/early 70′s and is stick built with siding that appears to be well into the rotting process.

    Paul S. – there are two air/con units for the house. I’m not totally familiar with the HVAC plan but basically one smaller unit serves the groundfloor and the main unit serves the 2nd and 3rd floors. With an exposed foundation on the first floor (i.e. the floor is the foundation, but polished), A/C requirements are pretty minimal and this unit usually doesn’t run. As the probe for the 2nd/3rd floor thermostat is on the 3rd floor, you need to be a bit aware of the 2nd floor windows during the summer… if the shades are all open it will get warm before the A/C kicks on. Since the majority of our time is spent on the 2nd floor it may be more practical to have the thermostat on this level next time.

    For the overhanging roof comment – if you’ve ever been in Houston you’ll have experience some pretty wicked horizontal rain storms.

    Note from the floor plan the front and back units are slightly different. If you have any specific questions I’m happy to provide my slightly biased answers/opinions.

  5. Bill L March 25, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Are there shot of the project taken a bit back? I’d like to see how this project fits within the neighborhood. I see in the last photo an adjacent house and I wonder if that is the norm for the street. Overall, the composition is elegant to me. The precence of the wood throughout and cool white are well balance. The spaces seem fun to to explore.

  6. PaulS. March 24, 2007 at 1:54 am

    I’ve looked carefully at the floor plan, relating it to the photographs, and I do like the location of the glass doors that lead to the balconies, off the dining areas. The doors are indeed shaded and protected by their setback in the wall, I see. It looks like there is a small accessible balcony off each of the third floor large bedrooms, presumably through a glass door, that’s a nice touch for light and ventilation. It’s a little hard to tell just how deeply inset other windows are in the walls; these are what I feel could use some more protection. Just one thing regarding HVAC, I know that open stairways are a basic aspect of modern design and are indeed attractive, but I feel that with them open as they are, that maintaining comfortable temperatures from the first floor to the third could be challenging. I wouldn’t enclose them with opaque walls, but some kind of glass enclosure, with doors, could improve HVAC efficiency while still maintaining visual openess.

  7. Feezmo March 23, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    Nice…

  8. Rob March 23, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I drive by this location every day, although sometimes I get honked at because I slow down to get a better look. It’s even more amazing in person–definitely one of my favorites in the Houston area.

  9. Blair March 23, 2007 at 11:36 am

    “The unique form is a simple box that has been activated by a single shift made in plan. This shift allows windows to be placed underneath overhangs and oriented North/South rather than across to the adjacent units. ”

    The above quote pulled directly from collaborativedesignworks’ website, answering Paul S.’s remark about “a roof that provides some shade to windows”. The pictures above provide ample evidence of “overhang”, in addition to the substantial canopy from the surrounding mature trees, which seems particularly well preserved on this lot.
    The modernist principles of maximal light, open plan and spare geometries do not seem to compromise efficiency in this project as Paul S. suggests. I suspect the neighbouring house with the darker roof would suffer proportionally greater solar heat gain than the 505 house.

    What do you like about the house Paul S.?

  10. Speedmaster March 23, 2007 at 8:27 am

    Very cool post, I love those, thanks! Wonderful architecture and interiors.

    http://amateureconblog.blogspot.com/

  11. tiago March 23, 2007 at 7:15 am

    amazing architecture project. If i have money i will pay to live in this house here in Brazil :D :D

  12. PaulS. March 23, 2007 at 12:55 am

    Setting aside my preference for architectural forms of far less severe angularity, I do like this project. Just one question I have for all of you out there. Do you really like exteriors such as we see above that lack overhanging roofs? Note the contrast seen in the lowermost photo, of the old house on the left against the new one on the right. I wonder if we don’t actually sacrifice some degree of heating/cooling efficiency when we forgo the protection of a roof that provides some shade to windows and, to a lesser degree, walls.

  13. Preston March 22, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    This is a great looking place. It also won a Texas Society of Architects Design Award in 2006.
    http://jetsongreen.typepad.com/jetson_green/2006/10/the_505_townhom.html

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