Stein Hemmes Wirtz architects designed and built this two-story energy efficient home in Farschweiler, Germany. Built on a sloping site with awesome countryside views, the homeowners wanted to maximize the view without loosing any of the heat generated from the heat recovery air exchange system. The solution was to replace the standard triple glazed window options with a custom glass wall that was built with quadruple window glazing. The window is mounted into the wall of the building using glass on frame construction for a smooth frameless transition from the wood facade to the window expanse.
The lower level of the home has an entrance off of a car pad and it is covered with an exterior roof created by the floating extension of the upper level. The lower level of the home uses concrete in its base construction as a retaining wall and moisture barrier to the hillside. The home is a mixed construction of concrete on the ground level and wood construction for the upper level. The bottom plate of the home is constructed with foam glass and gravel. Upstairs a layer of wood fibre creates the insulation; the combination of the two insulators creates an airtight, thermal-bridge-free heat insulated shell in such away that the wood walls store heat much the same way masonry walls do.
The home is constructed using laminated timbers that are dowelled together in order to eliminate the use of glue for a pollution free construction (all glues off-gas for years). Aside from pollution free construction the home also uses ecological building materials such as the exterior cladding of Siberian Larch, which is a by-product from the window industries. The home also makes use of a geothermal heat pump. Geothermal heat pumps are drilled down into the ground to reach a depth level of a desired constant temperature from the earth’s crust. The earth then heats the air in the heat pump which is then pumped it up and into the home.
The upper floor has a concrete pad that runs through and past the interior space creating an outdoor extension to the living area. The use of concrete for a flooring material is in keeping with the modern style of the home while at the same time offering an additional layer of heat absorption. The south roof is constructed with photovoltaic modules that blend in style with the Larch strips and the concrete pads.
The concrete pad on the outside of the home incorporates some naturally weathered wood decking details for visual interest. The Larch siding brings in a warm and cozy feeling to the exterior and the large expanse of glass allows those on the deck to see through and beyond the home to the views of the countryside in the distance.
Inside the home is an open floor plan with the kitchen reaching out into the space from the long panoramic window wall. Kept in a flat panel façade with a white lacquered finish, the only colours beyond the wood walls and ceiling come from the countryside. The kitchen keeps its function at counter level and lower so as not to interrupt the clean lines of the walls. A floating ceiling mirrors the shape of the kitchen peninsula and houses the stove fan and venting system as well as additional lighting.
The kitchen extends into the interior of the space only as far as the hallway, this creates a central division to the home that is exacerbated by the long skylight. The concrete floor is a nice balance to the weight of the wood ceiling and the open floor plan flanked by the glass walls creates a feeling of openness and grandeur.
The washroom follows the theme of the kitchen and stays with a basic white colour scheme offset by the wood upper walls and ceiling. Another skylight runs through the washroom and brings in extra natural light and a wall of mirror on the end wall reflects the light around the room.
At night the the entrance off of the street is well lit and welcoming. Although the style of this home is far more architectural and modern then the homes that flank it, the scale is compatible and the clean lines do not visually compete with them, thereby creating a setting of harmonious contrast