Sprouting Wings: A butterfly-roofed house solves a site condition, and supports good health

Posted on September 21, 2010

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Best Green Houses
Robert M. Cain Architect
By David Sokol,Via:greensource.construction.com

The owners of RainShine House were perfect candidates for a sustainably designed residence. The husband, a longtime commercial client of architect Robert Cain, AIA, LEED AP, suffers from a sunlight deprivation disorder and often travels to his native Florida to beat the winter blues. For his wife, off-gassing can trigger nausea and headaches. Her environmental sensitivity is philosophical, too, Cain, says: “She sees [RainShine House] partly as a way to help others visualize what you can do with green technology.” …

Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography

… The clients had purchased an infill site located near downtown Decatur, Georgia, thanks to its good southern exposure—clearly with the husband’s seasonal moods in mind…

Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography

…Yet the building lot didn’t allow for easy solutions…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

…Factoring in a manmade flood plain, stream buffer, and sewer easement …
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

…the one-third acre contained only a trapezoidal 3,778-square-foot area suitable for construction…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

…Cain also had to consider a photovoltaic array that would mount to the roof without additional superstructure; the northeast corner of the property enjoys the best solar exposure…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

…”[These parameters] went against solutions I had arrived at in the past,” Cain says. “The houses I had done tend to be more linear, like southern shotguns, that are oriented along an east-west axis with broad eaves protecting the ends from morning and afternoon sun. Here there was no way to have that orientation.” …
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

… The new solution: a 3,037-square-foot butterfly roof; with the entrance of RainShine facing west, the roof’s profile, as well as the ring of clerestory windows supporting it, is clearly visible from the street…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

…”The roof gave form to the rest of the house,” Cain says, noting that the floor plan easily fell into place thereafter…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography

…The internal configuration of spaces, he says, continues to evoke regional vernacular architecture, specifically a variation of the dogtrot…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House

Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography

…Although the butterfly roof raised the ire of some locals, RainShine’s scale, setback from the street, color scheme, and fenestration rhythm take their cues from the neighboring homes… 

Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography

… Cain’s landing upon a butterfly form also allowed him to forego a more complicated downspout system for integrated rainwater harvesting…

Best Green Houses: RainShine House

Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography

…The water is stored in five 500-gallon cisterns in the basement, and it is then deployed for toilet and irrigation uses…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

…RainShine’s various sustainability strategies…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

… from the care taken to expedite natural ventilation, to the installation of geothermal heating and cooling and a desuperheater that recovers the two-well system’s discharged heat…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

…add up to 108 points under LEED for Homes…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

…For Cain, Platinum certification helps advance a cause…
Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

… The majority of LEED-Platinum homes in the greater Atlanta area are confections of historicist flourishes, he says…


Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography

… “My argument is, Why force sustainable principles into traditional design when you can use a form that is much more adaptable to the solutions you want to achieve?” …

Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography

…And what a success it is, for the planet as much as for RainShine’s occupants…

Best Green Houses: RainShine House
Photo © Paul Hultberg Photography 

… Thanks to abundant yet controlled daylighting, he escaped to Florida fewer times this past winter; she felt comfortable during the cold weather, catching the aroma only of reclaimed heart pine.
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