Project Architect | Christopher Briley, RA, LEED-AP
Contractor | Eastern Construction Company
Location | Bremen, Maine
Completed | 2010
Our clients wanted a green home of wood, glass and stone, that looked like it ‘belonged’ on its site on Pemaquid Pond in Bremen, Maine. “But,” they warned , “Our tastes are more modern. We don’t want a New England Farmhouse.” This directive was a sheer delight, and helped to yield a design full of open, warm, light spaces, enveloped in natural materials expressed in modern ways.
Synthetic finishes were avoided as much as possible. The warm wood, offset by the cool concrete and stone, creates a comforting atmosphere and, when combined with the tranquility of the site, feels like a retreat from the busy world.
This house incorporates a passive solar design where the overhangs were designed to allow in the low-angle winter sun and cut off the higher angled summer sun. The first floor radiant slab is polished concrete; a beautiful, durable finish that requires no additional material for finish. On the second floor where a material with a “warmer” character was desired, strand bamboo was installed. The concrete slabs have the added benefit of providing substantial thermal mass to the house, a critical part of the passive solar design as it moderates the home’s temperature swings throughout the day. For heat, a 90-tube solar collector array provides all of the domestic hot water needs and approximately 50% of the remaining space heating. In extended periods of overcast-cold days, an efficient condensing gas boiler provides the rest.
This home is built very tightly, and so it has an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) that tempers the incoming air with the exhaust air. The fireplace (an efficient EPA rated insert) features a surround made from Fireslate, a resource efficient “man-made stone”, as well as a blue custom pre-cast polished concrete by John Meade. If one looks closely, one can see the many different materials such as glass marbles and brass bearings that were added to the mix to be revealed when polished.
The home is clad in Cambia, a thermally modified north-eastern poplar that is “cooked” in an oxygen-free environment, releasing much of the wood’s potential energy. The “energy-robbed” wood is thereby made resistant to rot and pests.
The roof is very special as it has a living plant material on it. A vegetated roof manages storm water. It will typically absorb a one inch rain storm without much in the way of runoff. This is an increasingly critical issue on these pristine lakes in Maine. It also respires, so the heat gain from the roof in the summer is zero.