700 Palms Residence by Ehrlich Architects


Ehrlich Architects’ objective for this eco-friendly residence in Venice, California was to: design a high-performance home that dissolves the barriers between indoors and outdoors; utilize raw, honest materials appropriate to the bohemian grittiness of the surrounding community; and have the smallest carbon footprint in balance with lifestyle.  This project received a 2009 AIA National Housing Award.

Three garden courtyards embrace three 60-year-old trees. The courtyards afford privacy and enhance the well being of its occupants. The overall massing maximizes volume and natural light gains on the narrow lot (43 ft x 132 ft), yet displays sensitivity of scale to the eclectic neighborhood of beach bungalows. Exterior sunshades on an exoskeleton of steel control the heat gain from the Southwestern exposure. Flexible, transformative spaces were created through the use of extensive operable glass doors. The 16-foot high living-dining area opens up on three sides: to the lap pool on the west with sliding glass doors; to the north courtyard with pocketing glass doors; and to the garden and guest house to the south through pivoting glass doors. When open to the elements, the living area is transformed into an airy pavilion.

The house design takes full advantage of the local climate such that a net zero energy building is obtained. This was done by employing a highly efficient building envelope and incorporating passive solar gains. Radiant floors and solar thermal energy are utilized for space heating and domestic hot water heating. The house also relies on natural ventilation, thermal mass and operable shading to eliminate mechanical cooling, despite the large glazing areas. Finally, by employing ultra-efficient appliances and lighting and by incorporating solar electric power for the remaining loads, the house achieves its goal for a net zero energy home.

The exterior landscape employs native plants and is in tune with the local climate for minimal water usage. The chosen coating and maintenance-free exterior finish materials, including Cor-ten steel and TREX (a sustainable material made of recycled plastic bags and sawdust), weather naturally, while all interior surfaces rely on varying tactile materials such as carnauba-waxed carbon steel and plaster which are left unpainted.

Fresh air, extensive day light, natural materials and electronically controlled systems create a superior indoor-outdoor environment for the house occupants. The contemporary design is also an urban infill project within an existing walking neighborhood. The occupants often visit friends, markets, and cafes on foot or bicycle, reinforcing the concept of strengthening an existing community.

Architect: Ehrlich Architects
Location: Venice, California, USA
Photographs: Erhard Pfeiffer, Julius Shulman & Juergen Nogai, and Grey Crawford

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