Making Waves: 3 Amazing Energy Saving Beach Houses

By Jody McCutcheon

They say charity begins at home. This is certainly true in the case of these three beach homes. Each one is extremely charitable toward the environment, while still managing to offer its own take on luxury.

Thanks to the many eco-conscious designers out there, the ever-increasing pressure to create from a position of sustainability is starting to pay dividends. The environmental consequences of industrial production and pollution are huge problems that must be solved sooner than later. But the push toward sustainable homes for the masses (or just beach bums, for starters) is an equally important step in the right direction. The sooner we can call our homes eco-friendly, the sooner we can feel better about our own personal impact on the planet.

Each of these three Energy Saving Beach Houses  borrows from the renewable natural resources provided by its own particular microclimate, thus allowing the dwellings to tread lightly on our already-stressed planet.

Bates Masi’s Amagansett Passive House

Located a few hundred feet from the ocean among rolling dunes in Amagansett, Long Island, this 160m2  energy saving beach house is a nod to local cottages of the 1950’s. Yet it’s as much a product of the present day as it is of its microclimate.

Using passive house principles, architectural firm Bates Masi has created an exquisite, low-energy building. By orienting the building face toward the street, the afternoon sun and prevailing wind, the cottage exploits the coastal breeze while preventing excessive sunlight from entering. Meanwhile, the west and east facades are made of operable glass with small, adjustable openings on the windward west side and larger openings on the leeward east side. These apertures create a pressure differential across the house, producing natural ventilation.

Tapering canvas louvers situated on the west side perform many functions. They contribute to the passive ventilation system, allowing southwest summer breezes while blocking northwest winter winds. They allow winter afternoon sun while blocking summer afternoon glare. They also waft the scent of the property’s lavender garden through the house and allow for privacy from street gawkers.

The louvers contribute to the interior aesthetic, too, augmenting the elegance of warm, rich wood tones, wide windows and open floor plans with dapples of sunlight during the day; while at night they make the cottage look like a lantern when viewed from the street.

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Blueys Beach House 4 by Bourne Blue Architects

For maximal luxury and comfort with minimal energy use, check out Bourne Blue Architects’ Beach House 4 on Blueys Beach, halfway up Australia’s New South Wales coast. The L-shaped, energy-efficient, 119m2 timber bungalow consists of three bedrooms on the northeast side, which receives the morning sun, and an open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area filling the southwest section, which gets the afternoon light and evening’s setting sun.

Historically, the community’s original dwellings were constructed from weatherboard and simple fibro (now banned for its asbestos content). While replacement houses tend to be large, clumsy suburban dwellings, this isn’t the case with Blueys Beach House 4. Bourne Blue’s clients requested a modest dwelling that fit the environmental context, and that’s what they received.

House 4 is built from sustainably sourced timber, with high-performance glass for all doors and windows. Energy use is minimized through the application of heavy insulation for walls and ceilings, heating via heat pump-based hot water technology, and the building’s correct orientation for thermal mass. The folded, zigzag roof permits harvesting of rainwater for bathroom, laundry and irrigation.

With its emphasis on indoor/outdoor living, and views of a lush landscape that includes grassland, forested hills and two large Angophora trees, the Bluey Beach House 4 is a dream home for one eco-conscious family.
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Sure House

Winner of the Solar Decathlon 2015, the Sure House is a 1960’s style beach cottage with a twist: It’s also an energy-efficient, solar-regenerating energy hub, an example of a sustainable, resilient home for coastal communities.

Built with a coastal microclimate in mind, the Sure House uses ninety percent less energy than a typical home. The cottage boasts a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) array that exploits coastal sun to generate enough electricity to supply all energy needs throughout the year, while PV’s on the storm shutters produce up to seventy percent of the cottage’s hot water.

Its “smart” design saves energy through the use of the aforementioned solar-heated hot water, increased insulation, high-performance glazing and heat-recovery ventilation, high-performance windows and high-efficiency appliances and lighting, while the building envelope is rigorously air-sealed to minimize energy loss. The stunning results–a reduced demand for heating and cooling energy that renders HVAC systems unnecessary–exceed strict Passive House standard for energy use.

Inspired by the destructive impact of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Sure House boasts a storm shutter system that protects the building during extreme weather, allowing it to withstand up to six feet of raised water level. Its construction allows for maximal airflow, permitting long-term resistance to mold and water damage. Not only does the storm shutter system protect against extreme weather, it also offers shade from pelting summer sun and maximizes winter solar gain. Finally, the shutters have inverterless DC PV panels to provide neighbours with emergency power when the power grid goes down.
Set in a classic indoor-outdoor style, with a compact, open style kitchen and living room, the Sure House isn’t just a resilient emergency power source; it’s also a great place to relax. The 93m2 interior is matched by 93m2 of exterior deck. More importantly, the project serves as an education tool on energy-efficient technologies that are easily available to the masses.

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