Every year, graduate students at the University of Kansas Department of Architecture enroll in the nonprofit Studio 804 program to design and build a sustainable, affordable and innovative home over the course of the year. In 2018, the group not only accomplished their goal of a LEED Platinum-certified house but also created the program’s first fully integrated smart house. Located in the Brook Creek neighborhood of Lawrence, Kansas, the net zero energy-targeted residence is a shining example of sustainable housing that even comes with an accessory dwelling unit.
Located in a flood plain, the house takes the form of two floating, modern glass boxes that are elevated yet accessible with a ramp. The home takes flooding into account and makes water conservation and management a central theme in its design. All stormwater is managed onsite and is either funneled through underground pipes to native plantings or absorbed into the onsite subsurface. Inside the home, low-flow fixtures were installed and all but one fixture are WaterSense-rated. An Energy Star-rated heat pump water heater also helps reduce energy and water use.
The house achieves energy savings through its airtight, highly insulated envelope, Energy Star-rated appliances and use of solar panels on the highly reflective roof. The east side of the building is completely glazed to let natural light flood the interiors and to bring the outdoors in. As a fully integrated smart house, all the appliances can be remotely controlled and “communicate with each other” to ensure energy efficiency.
“As we always try to do, we took the potential negative of the site — being in a flood plain — and tried to make it a positive,” Studio 804 explained. “The buildable site was built up with compacted earth above the flood plain. The dwellings are carefully composed glass boxes perched on concrete plinths, off which they cantilever. The buildings seem to float in what is a park-like setting.”
Photography by Corey Gaffer Photography via Studio 804