In 2006 the AIA set forth an architecture challenge to create ‘A House for an Ecologist’— a home base from which a US Fish and Wildlife Service Ecologist in Residence could live and conduct field research. Raphaelle and Alfredo Maul, of Maul Dwellings in San Sebastian, Spain, answered the call with The Landscape House – a site-sensitive, passive solar dwelling designed to fuse environmental performance with aesthetic integrity, building science with architectural excellence.

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Meant to be oriented along an east-west axis on the highest elevation of the rural West Virginia site, The Landscape House takes advantage of prevailing winds with a double roof system that improves air circulation around the structure and generous, adjustable openings on the north and south façades. Passive solar heating and natural daylighting are controlled by a system of operable louvered shutters which incline on the north and revolve on the south. On the roof, a highly efficient Sphelar (3D cell) photovoltaic system collects sunlight for on-site energy.

The Landscape House is an exercise in water conservation. Water usage is clustered within the dwelling to minimize material consumption. The kitchen and bathroom are equipped with low-flow fixtures, dry-compost toilet, recycling area and compost unit. Rainwater is harvested and stored under the solar roof providing grey water to fixtures, thermal mass and a source of heat in winter through circulation in a radiant floor system. A solar dehumidifier draws moisture from inside and outside the building to produce potable water for drinking.

Although meant to pass through many seasons, The Landscape House’s locally-sourced, recycled and renewable materials are easily disassembled for reuse at a different site. The AIA competition jury from the Architecture of Sustainability conference took note saying, “We like the pre-fab-ness of it—from prefabricated elements. We also had a lot of discussion about ‘touching lightly’—what a small footprint means. It could be totally non-physical, the footprint.”

The Landscape House won the 2006 AIA Committee on Design Ideas Competition. Although it exists only in concept we’d certainly like to see it built.

+ Maul Dwellings
+ AIA ‘House for an Ecologist’