A Forward Glance: At a quartet of residences in Seattle, a long-term vision—of future users’ needs, and of the city’s evolution—yields a flexible design today

Posted on September 21, 2010

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Best Green Houses
HyBrid Architecture + Assembly

By David Sokol,Via:greensource.construction.com
The Seattle firm HyBrid Architecture + Assembly is known for “cargotecture,” buildings made of ISO shipping containers that inspire a “visceral reaction,” says architect Robert Humble, who founded the firm with Joel Egan in 2003. “People see them and immediately think about recycling. It’s overt sustainability.” …

Photo © Lara Swimmer

For 1320 East Remington Court, a 4,293-square-foot plot nearer to Seattle’s central business district than even the city’s popular Capitol Hill neighborhood, HyBrid, acting as architect, developer, and construction manager, sacrificed the shipping containers and the overt message…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

 …Rather, this trio of 1,500-square-foot townhouses and a 1,000-square-foot single-family house peeking from behind it underscores the social and economic aspects of the sustainability concept…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…To be sure, Remington Court offers several textbook lessons in green design. “This site had pretty nice open space directly across the street to the south, so it offered a real opportunity to take advantage of passive-solar and ventilation techniques,” Humble says…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…In one example, the base of each three-story townhouse is constructed of concrete, offering high-thermal mass that retains the heat of sunlight and of the radiant system installed on the ground floor…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…Glass wraps the kitchen…
 

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…and public room above…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…and cedar cladding on the third, bedroom/bathroom story completes the tripartite scheme…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…Open risers in their stairs, and open transoms topping bathrooms…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…encourages the widest distribution of daylight and minimal flipping of switches…

Image courtesy HyBrid Architecture + Assembly

…And, in the townhouses’ stack ventilation scheme…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…hot air exits each building via stairwells that terminate above each roofline in a dramatic, glassy wedge…
 

Photo © Nick Williams

…Because the detached home is nestled behind the townhouses, it doesn’t benefit from all the same passive-solar techniques, but it makes the most of its sun exposure with a rooftop garden that features 10 inches of planting substrate; the townhouses also are topped by intensive gardens…

Photo © Nick Williams

…As for capitalizing on Seattle’s rainy days, the little house’s open-joint rain-screen enclosure made of paulownia wood mimics the lap-siding of the existing homes in the neighborhood…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…Even though Humble’s team created the smaller single-family home to blend Remington Court with the smaller-scale neighborhood context, design of the entire complex also responded to the neighborhood’s continued evolution…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…Indeed, Seattle recently rezoned an adjacent parcel for taller buildings and greater density, and Humble thinks that zoning on HyBrid’s site—currently it allows seven units but more parking spots than HyBrid could supply—ultimately will be rewritten to reduce the presence of cars…

Photo © Lara Swimmer

… “We saw an opportunity to create stacked units for when zoning changes,” Humble says. In the townhouses, then, the ground floors were conceived as flexible spaces that have rough-in plumbing for a future kitchen and a three-quarter bathroom. A demountable MDF wall can separate this floor from the two above it, and the townhouses’ stoops already allow for separate ground-floor entrances…
 

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…The scheme “can accommodate an attached dwelling unit or mother in-law apartment that would allow the homeowner to rent their lowest floor as a one-bedroom apartment or use it as a home office,” Humble notes. “In both cases it expands affordability for the buyer, and it can create another affordable housing unit.” …

Photo © Lara Swimmer

…HyBrid’s take on sustainability goes beyond passive and active techniques. Besides considering affordability as an integral component of sustainability, the flexible design of Remington Court posits that denser cities are integral to greener futures…

Photo © Nick Williams

… “We’re interested in how urban infill can be responsive to varying site conditions,” Humble says. “Most buildings are demolished not because the building outlived its life but because its land can support a higher use.”

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