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Green architecture – Ehrlich Retreat +

By Damir Beciri
19 June 2013

ehrlich-retreat-1Around 10 years ago, Ehrlich residence has set a benchmark for sustainable architecture built the house around a garden, emphasizing the nature and tranquility that he sorely missed. A decade later, private investor Craig Ehrlich discovered that his neighbors were moving, and promptly decided to continue his adventures in architecture with Ehrlich Retreat + – a two-level guesthouse that has been awarded with LEED for Homes Platinum certification.

Designed by John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, the 107 square-meter (1,150-square-foot) guesthouse serves as a separate single-family house. The large triangular cutout above the two-story-tall living room adds to the sense of spaciousness. The garden just outside the glass doors is full of peace and privacy, extending the footprint of the modest floor plan. An upstairs bedroom, two bathrooms, kitchen, two-car garage and outdoor dining table set under a pergola complete the new design.

Aesthetically, the home represents a piece of public art, with a dramatic stuccoed frame that extends well beyond the borders of the second story. The design is essentially a square, but each corner of the second floor has cuts, which architect compared to a block of cheese with wedges sliced off. Aside giving the appeal of classic Modernism, the structure is designed in this manner to deliver more sunlight to the first floor, while also shielding the house’s main southern exposure from the scorching sun in Santa Monica, California.

After running into difficulties finding an FSC-certified hardwood, the architects used FSC-certified Western red cedar to create the trellis and wooden screening around the house, and stained it to look like mahogany.

A row of large clerestory windows on the ground floor’s double-height office allow abundance of mellow northern light. The lack of an air-conditioning system speaks to the success of the natural ventilation – operable windows, sliding glass doors, and motorized skylights allow hot air to escape in summer and let breezes cool the space. On the other hand, radiant-heat flooring keeps the rooms comfortable during winter.

The solar panels are integrated into the design via a poolside trellis, creating a sheltered lounging spot. 3.9-kilowatt photovoltaic system that supplies the Ehrlich Retreat + house with a substantial portion of its electricity, and rooftop solar panels are used to provide the hot water.

The two houses are integrated by a powerful open landscape that includes a saltwater pool, a wood deck which connects the two structures and the new outdoor dining terrace, which is topped with photovoltaic panels. The pool sits off to the side, leaving more room for a lawn. A retaining wall on one side of the pool creates a higher plateau that looks out over the main yard and also provides some separation from the Zen garden off the living room.

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