The eco-friendly beach house of your dreams

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The eco-friendly beach house of your dreams

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Truro Modern Beach House:  Houses by ZeroEnergy Design
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Take a vacation from outdated architecture and old design ideas and pay a visit to Truro Modern Beach House, a modern, eco-friendly holiday home by the sea.

Located in the small town of Truro on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, about 100 miles from Boston by car, this spacious beach house measures a grand 660 m² but is energy efficient and environmentally conscious to a hilt, perhaps not surprising given the experts commissioned are a Boston-based architectural firm called ZeroEnergy Design. However, it is significant that an eco-friendly team of architects and designers were brought on board. 

Firstly, the house is situated on a narrow lot at an environmentally (and culturally) sensitive site – half of the land in Truro is in the protected conservation area known as the Cape Cod National Seashore and Truro residents are known for their opposition to development of their historic section of the 'Outer Cape'. 

Secondly, the house is packed with extended family for the length of the long New England summer, but only over the weekends during the rest of the year, and then only usually by the couple that owns the property – such variation in occupancy demands creative solutions in order to decrease energy usage and environmental impact. 

Despite, or perhaps by virtue of, the restrictions placed on this beach house's design, the results are stunning. 

A light house

Modern beach house exterior:  Houses by ZeroEnergy Design
ZeroEnergy Design

Modern beach house exterior

ZeroEnergy Design

Let's introduce Truro Modern Beach House with a nighttime rendezvous. With the interior illuminated by a variety of modern lighting solutions lit up and the majority of the surface area of the building's facade glazed from ground level to the eaves (we'll share in the magnificent view shortly), this home would be a site for salt-sore sailor's eyes for any shipwrecked Cape Codder making their way up the small, grassy rise from the dramatic – and largely environmentally protected – beachfront. 

This shot also demonstrates how ZeroEnergy Design have deconstructed Cape Cod architectural vernacular for a location-appropriate design. While the hips of the shallow pitched roof have been split at the ridge and separated by a few meters, and the gables are now mostly window, the whole hasn't lost the discreet, hunkered down weatherboard look and feel that Outer Cape tradition – and stormy weather – demands. 

Looking out at – and for – the environment

Modern beach house in the dunes:  Houses by ZeroEnergy Design
ZeroEnergy Design

Modern beach house in the dunes

ZeroEnergy Design

The view from Truro Modern Beach House's hilltop, beachside location is priceless. Well, let's admit that everything comes with a price tag, and for the occupants to enjoy this breathtaking prospect from the house the architects had to offset the cost of a less-than-thermally-ideal west-facing aspect, almost entirely glassed rather then clad with conventional exterior walls by ramping up other elements of the house's overall energy efficiency. 

Take a look at another large house that looks to offset its carbon footprint here.

When the sun's out, reach for it

Solar electric system:  Houses by ZeroEnergy Design
ZeroEnergy Design

Solar electric system

ZeroEnergy Design

One obvious and thankfully increasingly commonplace solution to the problem of the beach house's eco-friendly energy efficiency was to harness the power of the sun. Making the most of Cape Cod's fairly infrequent sunny days (though the temperature can rise to a friendly midsummer average of upper-60s to 75 degrees), the installation of a large array of solar panels greatly offsets the electrical requirements of the household, and storage batteries and smart energy management system allow the residents to survive blackouts without the use of a gas or oil generator. 

Besides the use of solar panel technology, other elements of the design that boost the home's energy efficiency include enveloping the house in super-insulating materials and implementing a geothermal and radiant heating system for optimal temperature control throughout summer and winter. 

Living | Sleeping | Dining

Modern kitchen:  Kitchen by ZeroEnergy Design
ZeroEnergy Design

Modern kitchen

ZeroEnergy Design

Another, more subtle set of solutions to this large Cape Cod beach house's performance challenges was to divide the whole into parts, a creative programming approach to architecture that's both environmentally sensitive and practical for a dwelling whose occupancy rates vary throughout the year. 

To this end, Truro Modern Beach House is compartmentalized (literally following the cues provided by the striking, split-hipped roof) into what the designers called the 'Living Bar' and the 'Sleeping Bar'. The Living Bar comprises the bare essentials for the couple-owners' weekend getaways, while the Sleeping Bar houses an expanded suite of bedrooms and bathrooms fit for the whole family. This doubling allows for redundancy – the Sleeping Bar can be shut down when not in use to activate a minimal, energy-efficient version of the house. 

Wings of desire

Modern dining room:  Dining room by ZeroEnergy Design
ZeroEnergy Design

Modern dining room

ZeroEnergy Design

Whichever part of the house is 'turned on', whichever part of the house you're in, the interior is stunning, view of the Atlantic notwithstanding. The dining room is located under the southern hip of the house's roof and occupied by a long table flanked by eight modern dining chairs, a setup that's ideal for the communal needs of this erstwhile family holiday home. 

A large rectilinear arch provides access to the adjacent living room, and both spaces are flooded with light thanks to the floor-to-ceiling glass facade. That said, the dining room does make a concession to the weather by only allowing a series of horizontal slit windows set high up under the eaves. 

A truly living house

Vaulted modern living room:  Living room by ZeroEnergy Design
ZeroEnergy Design

Vaulted modern living room

ZeroEnergy Design

The living room (the one in the Living Bar) is continuous with the modern kitchen pictured above (and featured in this ideabook), which in turn is separate from the dining room, demonstrating the thoughtful emphasis placed on careful separation and active communality that's stressed throughout the home's interior architecture. 

This space makes even more radical use of glazing, with the upper, pitched section wrapping around an irregularly shaped juncture between glass gables and the southern hip of the roof. The result is a masterpiece of light-filled home design whose already generous dimensions are amplified by the airy lack of a conventional ceiling, carefully chosen furnishings, and plenty of sliding-door access to the timber-decked terrace outside. 

This is, after all, a house in which both protecting the inside from the elements outside and inviting the outside inside, while paying all the respect the external world is due, is paramount. 

Where would you build your ideal beach house?
 Houses by Casas inHAUS

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