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Meridian View Row House Has Solar Chimney

Credits: ©2010 Fritz Hubig / Urban Turf

A rooftop pavilion reaches out over Fifteenth Street and frames the amazing view of Meridian Hill Park in Washington, D.C. USA. Warm wood lines the inside of the stucco form and channels light into the house via the stairwell. Spaces become more flexible by eliminating interior walls in favor of movable partitions and low counters. Kitchen and dining areas are lit with high-gloss finishes over wood tones and warm colors. The pavilion itself acts as a solar chimney with built-in settings that provide cooling and fresh air to the previously isolated spaces in the basement. Architect Rick Harlan Schneider of iStudio Architecture says that the solar chimney and other green upgrades have yielded energy savings as high as 60 percent, even with the addition.


meridian view rowhouse top level stair detail

While designing a green remodel for a rowhouse in Washington, D.C., architect Rick Harlan Schneider of iStudio Architects created a rooftop pavilion that provides park views as well as acts as a solar chimney for passive cooling and fresh air. ©2010 Dan Redmond Photography

When Wayne Shields and Andrew Velthaus approached designer Rick Harlan Schneider of iSTUDIO Architects to help redesign their three-bedroom row house, they had two objectives in mind: sustainability and bold architecture. They did not think that they were also going to be pioneers.

The green design that Shields and Velthaus had in mind presented iSTUDIO with the chance to push the limits. Schneider explained to UrbanTurf that one of his main goals was to see how you could passively cool a row house, and a “solar chimney” turned out to be the bold solution.

Sustainable design architects across the country are regularly discovering that they are the first to design something in an urban setting, and that happened to be the case with DC’s first residential solar chimney. Aside from all the other elements that were part of the redesign such as the koi pond, updated HVAC and advanced lighting system, and the elimination of interior walls, the solar chimney was what excited Shields and Velthaus.

At first the owners were skeptical of the solar chimney, but the unique, money-saving design feature soon appealed to them. The chimney, an age-old technology with a modern twist, provides cooling and fresh air without using conventional air conditioning. An example of passive solar design, the chimney promotes whole-house airflow by placing an engineered outlet for rising hot air at the top of a set of stairs. A vented chamber at the top of the chimney is heated by the sun, causing cooler air to be drawn in through the shaded basement windows. This allows fresh air to move throughout the four-story property on days when it’s hot, which allows the owners to turn off the air conditioning.

It is one of many “sustainable design” features that helped Shields and Velthaus reduce their energy bill by up to 65 percent. The design also won the Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design from the American Institute of Architects.

As Rick points out, “a cheaper energy bill doesn’t mean a cheap-looking house.” The home includes a well-designed rooftop penthouse and major interior renovations with finely-detailed sustainable finishes. The interior walls of the home were eliminated in favor of movable partitions and low counters. As the home incorporates a highly energy-efficient mechanical system and appliance schedule, it is really the incorporation of the entire integrated design that makes this home exemplify green building.


  Meridian View Row House with Solar Chimney (413 kb)

  Solar Chimney Fact Sheet (162 kb)


iStudio Architects (Washington, D.C., USA)