Accessible home for a retired couple in Chevy Chase, MD
The process of working with this couple took many steps, mostly internal - to build or not to build, given the beauty of the land, the process of designing and building a home, and the city's requirements. They owned an empty lot next to their home, where they wanted to build a home to serve them during their retirement years. Their existing home had many stairs, was broken up into many small rooms (some unused) and was a walk up the hill from where they could park their car. They owned an empty lot next to their home where they wanted to build a home that would serve them during their retirement years - a smaller home that could be easily maintained, all on one level, with simpler, open spaces. A dream to most grandparents, one of their sons and his family, including children, would move into their existing home.
Their lot was full of beautiful trees, with a gentle slope - it is a lovely respite amongst the pleasant suburb they live in. A primary concern was to create a completely accessible home that meets Universal Design standards (and Montgomery County's Design for Life), from stepping out of their cars. This was a challenge, as the site also has a lot of slope. We found a seam of land to weave their home through, while leaving as many trees as possible (some of which were milled for interior use) - all part of a peaceful flow, weaving through the site. Fortunately, the site stretches east to west, as does their home, allowing the sun to activate each room throughout the day. And with large deciduous trees on the south side of their home, they get summer cooling and winter sun. We designed the home only one room deep, allowing good light in each space, creating a quiet, restful, peaceful and luminous home that benefits from cross-ventilation in the gathering space (and few windows on the north side for energy considerations).
The main bedroom is on the ground floor, at the far side of the home's entrance, with a second story with bedrooms and a small gathering space for guests, as well as a partial basement for play. When going through the city's review process, however, they city complained that it was too small! The home sits quietly on the land, providing refuge and becoming part of the flow of the land, in consideration of the site and the couple's needs.
As always, Helicon Works Architects took into account responsible sourcing of materials, a very energy-efficient building envelope and HVAC. Most significant is the smaller size, which limits building cost, life-span costs of heating and cooling, and maintenance, along with passive-solar orientation.