By Jody McCutcheon
What’s better than designing a dream home? Designing it with your significant other, of course.
When Michael Holly, of Holly & Smith Architects, and his wife Denise bought a former dairy farm in Hammond, Louisiana, they saw the 15.5 acres as a tabula rasa. Over the next two decades, they designed and refined the landscape around ten mature oak trees (for which the property had been named), until they had their Pond House at Ten Oaks Farm. Fed by an artesian well, secluded by trees and set beside a man-made pond, the dream home defines contemporary, sustainable architecture, creatively meeting its owners’ aesthetic and energy needs.
Measuring 1,250 square feet, the Pond House boasts three storeys. The first floor consists of an outdoor fireplace and kitchen. The second floor houses living room, dining room and a second kitchen, with two cantilevered, glassed-in volumes that open the home to natural sunlight and panoramic, landscape views. The third floor offers a master suite with an outdoor terrace overlooking the property.
The dwelling’s faà§ade consists of limestone-shaded and -textured stucco with opaque tongue-and-groove polycarbonate panels. Wrap-around timber louvers shield the interior from excessive sunlight.
The Pond House achieves a net zero energy capability through active and passive systems. The building is split into three heating and cooling zones to maximize energy efficiency, with temperatures controlled by geothermal and variable refrigerant volume systems. Other active means of sustainability include solar energy, spray foam insulation, energy star equipment and LED lighting.
As for passive strategies of sustainability, the Pond House was built with a north-south orientation, enhancing natural day lighting. A slanted roof is angled to optimize sun exposure for its solar panels. The roof also sheds rainwater into the pond for onsite rainwater management, and overhangs on each floor offer precious shade from the Louisiana heat.
Operable windows allow for cross ventilation, while the building is built from reclaimed materials. Finally, the landscaping is designed to exploit seasonal solar and wind changes, as the thicket of seclusion-providing trees ringing the property channels cooling summer winds and blocks bitter winter winds. Finally, the building’s energy performance can be monitored and remotely controlled (temperature levels and lights) via smartphone app.
All these features add up to something special. Since completion, the Pond House has generated energy rather than consuming it, proving that sustainability, comfort and luxury can indeed share space. Just as importantly, the building is an active learning tool. Holly uses building performance monitors to apply practices honed on his Pond House “energy model experiment” to future architectural projects.
No wonder, then, that the Pond House was the 2015 winner of the AIA Baton Rouge Rose Gold Award (Residential). Michael Holly deserves kudos aplenty, but he’ll settle for living with his wife in the dream home they created together.