Selby adds: "Claudette wanted her house to be a living palette. She thought there may be cladding options in the future that do more than just clad a home and wanted to retain the ability to easily change this component."
In addition to improving the building envelope, Stern wanted an energy-efficient heating and cooling system. Her existing HVAC system was at the end of its life well before renovations began and she was interested in geothermal as the replacement. Meadowlark Builders designed a geothermal system for the Nautilus House but actually installed it in her home about a year before renovations.
As a found-object artist, Stern was adamant about finding a place for everything that was removed from her existing home. "We reused just about everything and ended up with about 10 yards of total waste," Selby comments. "It was a good learning experience. It sounds onerous, but it wasn't that bad, which inspired us to do this on all our projects."
For example, the team opted to remove Stern's existing fireplace. The utility-grade brick became the floor of the home's biosolarium, which is an open area that creates an opportunity for passive heating and cooling. "One of the things we like to do in green building is tap into as much free energy as we can find," Klement explains. "We analyzed the natural aspects of the site, and the tree corridor allows the prevailing winds that come from the southwest to funnel toward the house. That affects positive pressure on the house's southwest corner. On the northeast corner, we then have negative pressure."
The team created an overlook between the second-floor plane and the biosolarium, allowing warm air that rises to stratify at the top of the home's arch. On the leeward side of the house—the negative-pressure area—motorized windows open and draw the warm air out of the home in summer. "We're using convective action, position and design of the house, and location of windows to work as an integrated system to passively cool the house," Klement remarks.
During winter, warm air that has risen is pulled into what the team calls the monolith, a tower that separates the biosolarium and dining room. The top of the monolith has three 10-inch ducts that are tied to the mechanical system.
"Warm air is drawn in and routed down to the biosolarium floor," Klement says. "We dug out the floor 24 inches and lined the excavated area, like a bathtub, with rigid insulation on all sides. The monolith ducts are branched into smaller ducts, forming an exchange manifold running through what we filled back in with sand and limestone.
We placed the biosolarium's brick floor on top of that. This warm air then tempers what would be a cold floor in the winter."
Stern's profession also inspired creativity with materials. The home's east side features windows of different shapes, sizes, styles and types of glass. Meadowlark Builders contacted its local window manufacturer representative and was able to intercept one of the manufacturer's trucks taking a load of new windows that couldn't be used back to the plant for recycling. "One of the core tenets of green building is to reduce the amount of materials going to the waste stream," Klement remarks. "We actually went to the waste stream and extracted material for this project at a deep discount. This is a perfect example of knitting together opportunity with the client's goals, green-building strategy and energy goals."
Yet another example of finding new uses for materials is the OSB that features a water-based floor finish and is installed as flooring in the second-floor artist space. "It looks great at 32 cents per square foot and required very little labor," Selby notes.
Although Selby and Klement have worked on green-building projects before, the Nautilus House was a valuable learning experience for both of them, and they hope the house will inspire others to build and remodel in an energy-efficient manner. "The most incredible opportunities for change occur when we have the greatest challenges," Klement remarks. "We are dealing with the climate crisis, the energy crisis and the economic crisis. Yes, green building is different, but I cannot think of a more exciting time to be in the remodeling industry than right now. Not only is it exciting to do beautiful work but Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies says there are 130 million existing homes in America and more than 50 million have little or no insulation. We are in a position to make a difference. We're the remodeling industry; we must address this!"