The Element House | 2019 LEED Project of the Year Finalist

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“The Element House,” a custom home completed in late 2017 after a 14 month construction, recently was rated among Florida’s top three most energy efficient homes.

Seated on 7,500 square feet of waterfront property in south Sarasota, this private residence is situated in a gated enclave of 10 homes and has a spanning view of the Sarasota bay and protected mangroves.

The centerpiece of the great room, a suspended steel staircase hangs from the roof, and is valued at $100,000. The kitchen is outfitted with top-of-the-line appliances and is complimented by a large handcrafted island made of bookmatched walnut. Bathrooms feature free-floating vanities and Toto wall-mounted toilets. Hickory engineered hardwood flooring runs throughout the main living areas and the in the back, the 10,000-gallon infinity edge pool and spa is surrounded by a Jerusalem stone deck.

The project's vision was that of a minimalist structure, built beyond the code in terms of structural integrity, systems, and performance. The goal was to create a home that reduced dependency on the power grid with a focus on natural and passive systems. The intended performance was to achieve LEED Platinum and Net Zero Energy Certification.

Strategically placed operable windows allow for passive heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting thus reducing dependency on mechanical systems for comfort. These fundamental and simple architectural features stand in contrast to the cutting-edge controls used to operate the variable speed HVAC and low voltage lighting systems. Natural light fuses harmoniously with the architecture and windows bring daylight into every room – even closets and pantries. These innovations have become the defining feature throughout the home.

Along with being ultra-insulated the home has achieved one of the lowest air-infiltration rates tested both locally and nationally. Performance testing shows it in the top 1% of all Energy Star homes. The home is equipped with an optimized solar PV system to reduce dependency from the electric grid. In addition, passive lighting/ventilation, shading, use of local materials and a high-performance building envelope all contribute to achieving a HERS rating of -26.

An optimized solar array is in place to pick up where our conservation efforts left off. 100% automated LED lighting was installed throughout the project. The home features the Owner’s artwork, so it was imperative that the home would have the capability of controlling natural and artificial light. Window blinds that adjust automatically and smartphone operated controls are integrated throughout the home. 

Situated on a narrow 67’ wide lot, this home was designed as a primary residence that the couple could use just for themselves with a layout ideal to accommodating family and friends. Located in a Flood Zone, the architectural design reflects this restriction with a non-traditional floor plan being employed to maximize natural daylight and tropical breezes. 

Due to the location of this residence, the landscaping of this project was critical, and in accordance with the rest of the architecture, the landscaping followed a minimalist design. The existing shoreline vegetation was protected and nursed back to health during the construction. The newly installed landscaping was intentionally selected to aid in the scale of the home and designed to soften the rigid forms of the architecture. The placement of large trees frame and enhance the views while also providing a comfortable shade. Only brass bodied LED landscape lighting was purchased and installed in a way that accents both the strong design and soft tones of the residence. In order to maximize water retention and permeability, only Florida-friendly drought tolerant plants were used on-site.

All roof run-off water is diverted to an on-site collection and stored within cisterns for irrigation usage. Rainwater on the site that is not collected by the roof is managed through low-sloped swales constructed of non-compacted earth in order to expedite absorption and minimize bay impacts. A bay-friendly maintenance program is also in place to help maintain the integrity of the local waterways. 

The Element House marries design technique and advanced engineering to create a uniquely sustainable house with an emphasis on simplicity, comfort, and efficiency. The design goes back to the basics of sustainability with its use of shade, natural ventilation and daylight, local materials, and support of the natural Florida landscape.