Architecture

Low-energy upstate home is barn house on the outside, Passive House on the inside

The 5,000 sq ft (465 sq m) Mountain House is spread across three levels
The 5,000 sq ft (465 sq m) Mountain House is spread across three levels
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Sketch of the Mountain House
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Sketch of the Mountain House
A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home
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A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home
The 5,000 sq ft (465 sq m) Mountain House is spread across three levels
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The 5,000 sq ft (465 sq m) Mountain House is spread across three levels
The Mountain House, by Amalgam Studio, very much follows a low-energy approach to heating and cooling
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The Mountain House, by Amalgam Studio, very much follows a low-energy approach to heating and cooling
The Mountain House is set at the top of a ridge that makes for splendid views over 120-acre property (50 ha) and beyond
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The Mountain House is set at the top of a ridge that makes for splendid views over 120-acre property (50 ha) and beyond
One impressive feature of the home is the clever shading system over its south-facing facade
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One impressive feature of the home is the clever shading system over its south-facing facade
Bathroom inside the Mountain House
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Bathroom inside the Mountain House
Hickory making up the vanity units in the bathrooms of the Mountain House
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Hickory making up the vanity units in the bathrooms of the Mountain House
Hickory making up the vanity units in the bathrooms of the Mountain House
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Hickory making up the vanity units in the bathrooms of the Mountain House
The Mountain House is set at the top of a ridge that makes for splendid views over 120-acre property (50 ha) and beyond
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The Mountain House is set at the top of a ridge that makes for splendid views over 120-acre property (50 ha) and beyond
The Mountain House, by Amalgam Studio, very much follows a low-energy approach to heating and cooling
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The Mountain House, by Amalgam Studio, very much follows a low-energy approach to heating and cooling
A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home
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A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home
The 5,000 sq ft (465 sq m) Mountain House is spread across three levels
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The 5,000 sq ft (465 sq m) Mountain House is spread across three levels
Living area inside the Mountain House
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Living area inside the Mountain House
Dining area inside the Mountain House
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Dining area inside the Mountain House
The materials used for the Mountain House's interior take their cues from surrounding species of endemic trees
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The materials used for the Mountain House's interior take their cues from surrounding species of endemic trees
Fireplaces and wood stoves are on standby inside the Mountain House for the chillier months 
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Fireplaces and wood stoves are on standby inside the Mountain House for the chillier months 
Kitchen inside the Mountain House
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Kitchen inside the Mountain House
Kitchen inside the Mountain House
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Kitchen inside the Mountain House
Kitchen inside the Mountain House
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Kitchen inside the Mountain House
The materials used for the Mountain House's interior take their cues from surrounding species of endemic trees
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The materials used for the Mountain House's interior take their cues from surrounding species of endemic trees
Living area inside the Mountain House
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Living area inside the Mountain House
Kitchen area inside the Mountain House
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Kitchen area inside the Mountain House
One impressive feature of the home is the clever shading system over its south-facing facade
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One impressive feature of the home is the clever shading system over its south-facing facade
One impressive feature of the home is the clever shading system over its south-facing facade
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One impressive feature of the home is the clever shading system over its south-facing facade
The 5,000 sq ft (465 sq m) Mountain House is spread across three levels
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The 5,000 sq ft (465 sq m) Mountain House is spread across three levels
A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home
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A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home
The Mountain House, by Amalgam Studio, very much follows a low-energy approach to heating and cooling
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The Mountain House, by Amalgam Studio, very much follows a low-energy approach to heating and cooling
The Mountain House is set at the top of a ridge that makes for splendid views over 120-acre property (50 ha) and beyond
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The Mountain House is set at the top of a ridge that makes for splendid views over 120-acre property (50 ha) and beyond
Loft space inside the Mountain Home
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Loft space inside the Mountain Home
Staircase made of floating treads inside the Mountain Home
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Staircase made of floating treads inside the Mountain Home
Bedroom inside the Mountain House
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Bedroom inside the Mountain House

This newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, yet makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home. The Mountain House, by Amalgam Studio, very much follows a low-energy approach to heating and cooling, while honoring the history of the area with all the aesthetic hallmarks of a good ol' fashioned countryside barn.

"We all love the idea of living in a barn," says Amalgam Studio Founder Ben Albury. "The generous interior space, the exposed structure, all that wood. But we don't love the lack of light, insulation, comfort, or the dirt!"

The 5,000 sq ft (465 sq m) Mountain House is spread across three levels, featuring four bedrooms and five bathrooms, and is set at the top of a ridge that makes for splendid views over 120-acre property (50 ha) and beyond. Albury says he always felt an obligation to minimize the home's environmental footprint.

"From the very beginning, the clients wanted a comfortable house," he says. "I believe it would have been irresponsible for me not to look at, and ultimately follow, Passive House Standards."

A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home
A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home

This led Albury and his team to wrap the home in high-grade insulation, airtight membranes, triple glazed glass and heat-recovery units inside the walls. As per the Passive House standards, these work together to stabilize the internal temperatures of the home and greatly reduce the need for artificial heating and cooling.

Fireplaces and wood stoves are on standby for the chillier months, however, while a split system air-conditioner can also provide cooling in the summer. Windows and doors are placed strategically along the length of the home to maximize cross ventilation, as are a number of skylights to draw in plenty of natural light.

A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home
A newly finished dwelling in upstate New York takes careful cues from traditional farm buildings of the area, but makes every effort to afford it inhabitants the comfort of a modern home

One of these skylights sits over the top of a staircase made of floating treads that leads down to the stone basement to infiltrate it with daylight. That staircase also divides the home's living and bedroom areas, while a loft overhead is intended as a multipurpose space with yet another skylight for stargazing once the sun goes down.

With its long form and gable roof, along with exposed timber frame and surfaces, the Mountain House is very much in keeping with the tenets of barn construction. In fact, the bent frames running its length were erected in a day, much like they were in traditional barn-raising events held by farming communities in the past.

One impressive feature of the home is the clever shading system over its south-facing facade
One impressive feature of the home is the clever shading system over its south-facing facade

Another impressive feature of the home is the clever shading system over its south-facing facade. When deployed, it covers the outdoor dining area with shade and when packed down acts as shutter protection against storms that might batter the windows along that side of the home. If left open by accident, the shutters are designed to automatically tilt downwards and unload snow before too much of it can build up.

"Every year there seems to be a different horrific meteorological event that one needs to protect from," says Albury.

The materials used for the home's interior take their cues from surrounding species of endemic trees, with white oak laid down for flooring, walnut put together for the cabinetry and hickory making up the vanity units. Granite, slate and stone pulled from local quarries form the chimney hearth, basement masonry and wet areas.

If you'd like to see more of the Mountain House, which was completed last month, there are plenty of images in the gallery.

Source: Amalgam Studio

2 comments
cp
Please tell us more about the exposed wood (?) roof coating.
Longtermthinker
To describe this structure as “low energy” ignores the huge embodied energy required to build this, another example of an extravagant custom home using unsustainable amounts of expensive wood finishes. A truly energy efficient home would not use that much full height glazing and definitely not skylights which are always thermal holes in the roof. Please get real about 1percenter dream homes that make specious claims about efficiency and sustainability.