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Truro Beach House Soaks up the Rays (USA)

Credits: ©2009 Zero Energy Design

The Truro Residence is a custom home designed by ZeroEnergy DESIGN, based in Boston, MA. ZED is integrated architecture and energy consulting firm focused on green modern home design and zero energy homes and buildings. This high performance home features a super-insulated building envelope, ground (geothermal) source heat pump, and 11.7KW of solar energy on the roof. The geothermal system, coupled with radiant heating and central air, will supply the home’s heating and cooling needs throughout the year. A heat recovery ventilator provides fresh air throughout the year while exchanging heat between the incoming and outgoing air steams, minimizing the energy penalty of fresh air ventilation. Since the home was designed as a vacation residence with varying occupancy, the program of the home is organized to decommission half of the home for the majority of the year to conserve energy. The home is split into two volumes – a ‘Living Bar’ and a ‘Sleeping Bar.’ The Sleeping Bar is the expansion module with numerous bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate the entire family. The Living Bar includes the kitchen, living and dining areas, as well as a secondary master bedroom – all that the couple needs when the children are away.


Truro Beach House Deck

The Truro Beach House is on a narrow, environmentally sensitive site, with a magnificent west-facing view. ©2009 Eric Roth

A client came to ZeroEnergy Design with an interesting proposition. They wanted to commission the design of an environmentally sensible beach home on Cape Cod. The trick was that they had some unusual space requirements, a narrow lot on an environmentally sensitive site, and a magnificent west-facing view.

The client can be described as a professional couple, each in different medical fields, with a large family including grown children and grandchildren. They normally reside in downtown Boston, but plan to spend their summers and weekends on the Cape. While their Boston residence accommodates some of their children, their new beach home will be the only place that will accommodate all seven of them, including their significant others and the grandchildren, thus dictating the need for an extensive number of bedrooms. The entire family will gather over the summer and on holidays, while the couple will use the home by themselves during weekends throughout the year.

Planning for the extreme variation in occupancy was an issue the designers dealt with from the start. The home is split into a ˜Living Bar' and a ˜Sleeping Bar.' The Sleeping Bar is the expansion module with numerous bedrooms & bathrooms to accommodate the entire family. The Living Bar includes the living and dining areas, as well as a secondary master bedroom – all that the couple needs when the children are away. This programmatic zoning allows the Sleeping Bar to be shut down during the majority of the year to decrease energy use.

The site has a spectacular west-facing view of the water and sunset. The area of west-facing orientation of the glazing used to capture this view certainly isn't ideal for energy performance. The narrow lot size, combined with the client's square footage requirements and the obvious desire to be able to take in the view from the primary living space made the un-ideal orientation of the glazing unavoidable. The rest of the building envelope certainly offsets the luxury view. Silvia and Silvia of Osterville are building with double stud framing which allows a continuous layer of foam insulation (uninterrupted by studs). The geothermal system, coupled with a radiant heating system, will supply all of the heating and cooling for the year. Aside from energy efficient appliances and water heaters, ZED worked with lighting consultant Light Th!s to ensure that all of the spaces are well illuminated using energy efficient fixtures. The client also decided to minimize the home's reliance of fossil fuels. Propane is used only for cooking. There is no natural gas.

The roof sports a large solar electric array installed by NexAmp to offset energy usage through the use of net metering. A battery back-up and energy management system from GridPoint will store electricity from the solar array to ensure the basic functions of the home through blackouts without the use of a gas-powered generator. The combination the energy efficient building envelope and systems with the solar array will allow the home to produce as much energy as it uses over the course of a year!

Choices were also made to promote healthy indoor air quality. Flooring was limited to slate, bamboo, and polished concrete, while omitting any carpeting that might capture dust, mites, mold, or moisture. The rapidly renewable bamboo flooring is bound with nontoxic glues. The insulation in interior walls and floor, used for sound insulation and to improve the performance of the radiant heating system, is formaldehyde-free. An air exchange and energy recovery system will provide clean fresh air throughout the year.

Finally, the exterior finishes will allow the home to turn a traditional Cape Cod grey and blend into the dunes. The site is vegetated with indigenous plants that prevent erosion and won't require irrigation. They have been carefully selected by landscape consultant, Heimarck & Foglia.

The form of the house tapers in plan and roof planes to allow for both a demure street presence and an explosive ocean view and was inspired by the unique topography of the coastal bank. The site, the highest point in Truro, rises to an elevation of 116’ before sloping down to sea level. The Foyer, positioned between the two forms, provides direct access to the ocean-front deck, satisfying the client’s desire to walk right out to the beach as soon as they arrive.

Cooking and Dining
The owners love to cook and asked for a large kitchen where the family to gather. ZED thought of the kitchen as the social epicenter of the living area; the entertainment side of the generously sized kitchen island provides space for seating and access to the wine refrigerator while the functional side is all chef’s business.

The dining room is adjacent to the kitchen and can open up directly to the dec.

Living and Views
The view from the living room is what really makes this home special. The glazing asymmetrically wraps and exposes the corners of the space bringing in both light and views and gives the owners and their guests unobstructed views from any­where in the living room. The warm wood roof plane draws the eye outside while the glazing brings the horizon in, inviting the ocean—or the fog—to complete the dynamic fourth wall of the space.

Horizontal lines and orthogonal forms are traced in the bench beneath and beside the fireplace, in the linear fluorescent light fixtures and even in the horizon line in the painting above the fireplace. These horizontal reference lines continue throughout the space, extending out to the true horizon, and back in again.

Sleeping and Bathing
The breathtaking architecture continues in the master bedroom which is designed to provide privacy for the owners from the rest of the home. The angled clerestories fill the room with light while the slider provides the room its own view of Cape Cod bay.

The Bathrooms feature recycled glass tile, bluestone, and water efficient fixtures. The transom window in the masterbath introduces light from skylights in the adjacent study.


* Square Footage: 6200

* Bedrooms: 7

* Bathrooms: 8


* Chef's Kitchen, Radiant Floors, Extensive Beach-Front Decking, Private Gym, Home Theater, 2 Master Bedrooms, 2 Car Garage


* Net-Zero Energy, Photovoltaic System, Geothermal Heating and Cooling, Instantaneous Hot Water, Foam Insulation, Heat Recovery Ventilator


* Fresh Air Exchange System, Low to No Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Materials


* Permeable Driveway, Water Conserving Fixtures, Rapidly Renewable Materials, Low Maintenance Materials, Xeriscaping

Read article about the Truro Beach House in Design New England magazine.


Modern House Architect

Zero Energy Design (Boston, Massachusetts, USA)