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Retiring from the Grid

This undergraduate studio project required site planning and design of a coastal residence for two future retirees on property near the fertile St. Helena Sound, just beyond Beaufort, South Carolina. While the property had already been purchased by the clients, the planning and design of the dwelling would not be realized until after their retirement in 2020. Therefore, sustainable design and independence from existing infrastructure were imperative. The form language, material selection, and energy systems had to be timeless, regionally appropriate, and adaptable for aging residents.

Upon exploring the existing site, it became evident that a dense network of trees characterized the site and were the primary reason the clients purchased the property. It was critical to me that these existing trees remained on the site and informed all design possibilities. My structural solution was generated by the grid formed by the existing trees, whereby the proposed house would float in between the trees and appear entangled in the vegetation. Daily sun exposures, wind speeds, and annual temperatures influenced by roof design by allowing warming winter sun at low angles and deflecting harsh summer sun at high angles. The primary east-west axis of the ground floor plan supports a Trombe wall and provides passive heating and cooling throughout the year.