Sited on a South-facing slope of the Sierras at an elevation of 3,000 feet, the 1,194 sq. ft. Sierra Guest House sits in a natural clearing among deciduous and evergreen trees on its 232 acre site. The goal was to create a residence that responded directly to its environment. The building is designed as a passive-solar operable house, maximizing natural ventilation to meet our client’s desire for a truly energy efficient home which would not require a standard forced air heating and cooling system.
Basic thermodynamics and the natural heating and cooling of the environment are used to sculpt the form of the structure, which is a shed-form roof. Windows were placed at the highest point on the south and west elevations, and the lowest points at the opposite end of the house to take advantage of the cooler air at grade level. A portion of the building is cut into the hillside to help regulate temperatures within. A wood lattice screen on the west elevation shades the building from the afternoon sun during the summer months. Winter heating is provided by a wood stove and radiant floor heating in the slab-on-grade areas.
Spatially, the design locates the most private areas where the building is cut into the hillside, expressing the enclosure and protection. The more public spaces are located where the building extends outward. As the building moves out above the site, its boundaries become less defined and more public, culminating in two large sliding glass panels that come together at the dematerialized southeast corner.
Photographry: Dave Adams Photography & Ken Gutmaker