The Bryant residence showcases salvaged materials from an old cottage on their lot and lumber milled from a tree felled during construction. The house design was inspired by the vernacular architecture of the south and uses passive solar orientation with deep overhangs, porches, natural ventilation, and a reflective roof as a fundamental approach to energy efficiency.
The house was carefully inserted between 4 mature oaks, to take advantage of their shade. The site design orients the Bryant home slightly southeast, so that it aligns with the natural slope. The decision to orient the house with the slope, rather than parallel to the street, lets the main floor screened porch hang out into the trees of an adjacent bayou. The orientation also creates room for a basement to house mechanical equipment and a flexible space for a home office/ guest room with its own ground floor screened porch and views. The condensate drain for the HVAC system is routed underground off this lower level and emerges to become a wildlife “watering hole” in the nearby woods. Guests can view foxes, raccoons, and turtles on the porch while reclining in the swing, or bathing in a converted livestock trough that the Bryant’s have dubbed their “redneck spa.”
Roughly 1/3 of the built area is dedicated to porches. These outdoor rooms provide flexible space for kids to play, adults to dine al fresco, or get-away space for whoever needs it most. They also allowed the family to keep the heated and cooled space more compact. The compact house shape and simple floor plan not only leave more room for wildlife on their lot, but contribute to the overall efficiency and affordability of the home. Building down into a basement and up into lofts in the bedrooms increasing the interior space between foundation and roof by 30% compared to typical buildings in the area.
When the Alabama heat rises, advanced framing techniques, air sealed construction, open cell foam insulation, LoE windows, and a high performance air conditioning system allow the home to be cooled with minimal energy consumption. The high performance building envelope reduced the HVAC size by 2 tons, which allowed the use of better insulation and HVAC systems with no net gain increase in construction cost.
The Bryant residence had originally been conceived of as a renovation of an older cottage on the site. During demolition that structure was found to be a conglomeration of heart pine boards, old doors, packing crates, and what apparently were fencing materials…. beautiful, but completely structurally unsound. The Bryant’s invited neighbors, builders, and Habitat to Humanity to take electrical fixtures, plumbing fixtures cabinets and hardware, then dismantled what was left to be repurposed into interior paneling, beams, and furniture. While this process added time and some cost to construction, the Bryants say that the beauty of the materials, the new connections made to people throughout the community, and the stories now embedded in their house are some of the most valuable attributes of their new home.
Porch and living area photos by Stephen Savage.