Pilar and Cristian were dreaming of building a home away from the busy neighborhood of their children’s youth. They needed a home that would be easy to age into and also welcome their friends and family for dinner or an extended stay. They desired a place to look forward to coming home to.

Located on a two-acre property just outside of Ann Arbor, the home is designed to embrace the picturesque views and green acreage. The homeowners prioritized a lifestyle of gardening, outdoor time with pets, and plenty of space for visitors to enjoy—a kind of destination spot for family when they come to town.

The main living area opens onto sweeping views of their wooded site and future gardens, while maintaining areas of privacy adjacent to this space. A private study and a family room are buttressed by partial-height walls—providing screening and a gentle transition into the master bedroom suite without interrupting the view from the main living area.

Among their priorities was an emphasis on incorporating sustainable best practices into the design of the home, while maintaining their goals for the enjoyment of their home. Here’s how Giraffe Design-Build blended their lifestyle, design and environmental priorities into a single home build project.

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A Modern Passive Solar Home

Working in close consultation with our clients, we designed the southern half of the home as a passive solar collector, while using conventional framing and assembly techniques on the northern half.

The main living area is organized in a unified open plan within the passive solar form. The roof gently raises up to the south, with large protective overhangs that will allow direct sunlight in winter and provide cooling shade in the summer months.

The long south-facing exposure features several tall windows with glass that have a high solar heat gain coefficient, allowing sunlight during the colder months to heat the main living area. A thermally isolated polished concrete floor will store up the heat and release it throughout the day and into the night.

In the summer, the floor will radiate cool and high venting windows will draw cool air from the main floor and basement. In every season, a heat recovery ventilation (HRV) system will moderate the temperature throughout the home.

Long-term Planning

Another important aspect of the home’s design is the long-term planning for additional sustainability practices. Pilar and Cristian hope to go off-grid eventually, and they tasked Giraffe to design for the future.

To honor their desire for greater sustainability in the coming years, our design included a low-sloped roof to eventually house a solar array. A battery bank will be installed in the garage for easy access and maintenance.

In addition, wherever possible, Giraffe Design-Build is selecting locally sourced materials and fabricators, and we’re careful to balance the carbon footprint of construction materials against long-term energy conservation for the lifetime of the home.

The First of Many to Come

Pilar and Cristian’s home blends modern design sensibilities with good sustainability practices. This house will serve as an ideal destination for guests, situated on a spacious wooded property with plenty of room for play. The homeowners will be able to age well into the home, which has a main floor master suite, while appreciating the sustainable solutions that will pay for themselves for years to come.

This is the type of home Giraffe anticipates designing more frequently. Houses like this aren’t available on the market right now, but we have renovated several homes with these design priorities. Designing a new home from the ground up allows greater design intentionality, without the preexisting constraints of an existing home.

If you’re dreaming of a home that combines a modern design aesthetic and good sustainability best practices, we invite you to start a conversation with us to see how Giraffe can bring your dream to life.