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