A small barrier island near Charleston, South Carolina provided the opportunity to utilize prefab construction, sustainable technology, and various techniques for transforming the structure to take on the climate challenges of this Coastal site. Early in the design process, the clients expressed their desire to have an off the grid house that would touch the ground lightly, take advantage of sustainable technologies, and would be defensive against the powerful coastal storms as well as occasional brush fires that sweep this small coastal island.
The response is a largely prefabricated steel structure, utilizing insulated panel technology and steel frame construction to reduce the number of columns and minimize on-site erection time. Green Technologies were utilized to fully take advantage of the site, while minimizing the impact. Solar panels are provided both for thermal water heating and photovoltaic electricity production. Composting toilets collect waste and a leach field handles the gray water. Windmill power will supplement electrical needs, and back-up generator will be used only when necessary. A water catchment system will collect rainwater and store it for household use.
Transformation occurs throughout the day with a layered series of large sliding doors across the south façade. The first layer is made up of storm doors and shutters, allowing the entire structure to shut down during Atlantic storms. These doors are also insulated to keep in heat during the winter nights, and conversely lower temps during particularly hot summer days. The second layer consists of sliding glass pocket doors, which can be positioned completely out of the way to open the house up, with passive ventilation through the high North facing windows. The third layer is a series of louvered wood doors to provide shade and ventilation during the hottest days of the year. These shutters are repeated throughout the interior of the house to hide back of house program while allowing constant air flow from ocean breezes.
The large open plan allows for the wood burning stove to be the center of activity in the winter months. A water jacket allows for the in-floor heating tubes to be run off of the stove on particularly cold days. Bathrooms, Laundry Room, Pantry, and Mechanical Room are all grouped along the north wall, allowing for the public areas to take advantage of the south facing views and maximum flexibility, while allowing for maximum ventilation.
Below the main house, within the flood zone, an open screened in porch provides an area of refuge away from the heat and insects within the tree canopy. The upper level utilizes a ‘Crow’s Nest’ to take full advantage of the views and ocean breezes. Expansive decks provide various areas of exposure and cover for changing conditions throughout the days and year.