Green Is… Pared Down
The challenge: Design a residence that lives large and treads lightly on the land—in 1,000 square feet or less
"It's a see-through house!" one visitor exclaimed upon first setting eyes on this sleek two-bedroom residence in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Indeed, the rectangular structure on a private five-acre site at the base of the Teton Mountain Range feels as open and expansive as its surroundings. Floor-to-ceiling windows in both long exterior walls face south to woodlands and north to a stream. Dramatic weather displays and the sounds of rushing water and rustling leaves are ever present.
The size of this home, designed by architect John Carney of Carney Logan Burke Architects for himself and his wife Elaine, may at first come as a surprise: a mere 950 square feet. Local zoning laws required a small footprint, limiting the entire site to a maximum of 8,000 built square feet—and any guesthouse, which this structure will ultimately become for a yet-to-be-designed main house, to 1,000 square feet.
Carney took that limitation as a challenge. “I’ve been practicing for thirty-something years,” he says, “and I’ve found that less can be more when you refine your ideas and are disciplined in your use of materials.”
The architect began that refining process by designing a rectilinear form divided into three zones. The central living/dining area, flanked by walls of glass, includes a galley kitchen along one interior wall. Two bedroom suites feel larger thanks to their corner floor-to-ceiling windows. “Whenever you open a corner like that,” says Carney, “it brings the outside in more than a window in the middle of the wall would.”
A limited materials palette adds to the house’s surprisingly open feel. Natural cedar-shingle and warm gray bonderized steel siding harmonize with the surroundings. “It evokes a rustic cabin,” Carney says.
But few rustic cabins have the eco-conscious sensibility this home possesses. Canted slightly to the southeast, its east-west axis welcomes sunshine through the central room’s low-E windows, providing passive solar heating for the super-insulated structure. Three-zone forced-air heating kicks in only when and where it’s needed. At night, low-voltage lighting provides maximum illumination with minimum energy.
The result is a residence that lives much larger than its size might suggest. “Visitors often ask me, ‘Why would you even build a main house?’” Carney says. “But I know that when it is designed, that house will have been informed by the knowledge we’ve gained here.”
Architect John Carney shares some of the practices, big and small, his family has adopted to live a more environmentally responsible life:
Follow the Three R’s “We really do try to ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,’ as the old motto goes.”
Set Up Right-Sized Reminders “In our very small kitchen, the garbage can is just a 12-inch-wide stainless-steel container. That’s a reminder not to live wastefully.”
Power Down “Our home heating system allows us to tailor our energy use to the time we spend in the house and the rooms we’re occupying. We can set it to heat up when we’re coming home.”
Carpool “My wife, who is a strategic consultant for nonprofits, has an office at my firm. So we often drive to and from work together.”
ARCHITECTURE John Carney, Carney Logan Burke Architects, Jackson, WY, 307-733-4000, clbarchitects.com WOOD-BURNING STOVE Gabo Wood burning stove by Rais, EPA certified, us.rais.com ROOF Insulated roof (R-72) closed cell spray foam by Bressler Insulation, Inc., Wilson, WY, 307-733-5312, bresslerinsulation.com WALLS Insulated walls (R-35) closed cell spray foam by Bressler Insulation, Inc., Wilson, WY, 307-733-5312, bresslerinsulation.com WINDOWS Loewen, loewen.com INSULATED WINDOWS Low-E insulated windows (U-.31-.34 max), Loewen, loewen.com PAINT Low-VOC paint by Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com ELECTRONIC AIR CLEANER Honeywell F300, honeywell.com ELECTRIC FURNACE High-efficiency Carrier FE4ANB002, residential.carrier.com WATER HEATER A.O. Smith ECL – 50, hotwater.com LED LIGHTING Hera KB12 – KBS12LEDCH; GM Lighting, Ribbon Light – LTR300-SO-27, heralighting.com