Dwell: Big Style, Small Footprint
The petite 1,358 square foot, two-bedroom, two-bath house boasts sustainability from every angle of design and materials used.
Allen House in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Photography by Albert Skiles, Principal Architect
Reduce, reuse, recycle — that was Myria and A.J. Allen’s theme for building a “sustainable modern” home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Completed in spring 2011, the Allens are redefining conventional building practices and focusing on practical ways to reduce their footprint. Myria, a professor in Environmental Communication at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (UA), and A.J., an employee for the city’s Parks and Recreation department were able to respect their sustainable values while reducing their energy bills by collaborating with Skiles architects.
“This home, for me, fits my philosophy,” Myria said. “It’s low impact on the environment, which makes me feel like I’m doing my part, and it saves me money. One reason was philosophical, and one was completely practical.”
Taking advantage of her green quarters for work, Myria lectured to her students on the building phases, hosts the UA Sustainability Club in her home and regularly brings students in to see her beautiful, yet functional home. “I want to share why we made the choices we did,” she said. “I’m trying to help them to realize there are other ways to make choices, other values people can use when they make their choices.”
The exterior features fiber cement board (FCB) and corrugated Galvalume to emphasize the lines of the home’s footprint. The FCB was connected with aluminum Fry Reglet FCB panel trim, which protects it from moisture penetration at the edges. “We chose it because it could be recycled, it’s durable, and we figured we wouldn’t have to continually paint it. The wood on the outside will hold up very well through time,” Myria said.
The beautiful kitchen came together over the naturally-patterned flooring of the original concrete; they simply polished it with non-toxic wax. “The glass in the backsplash came from California,” Myria said. “Most recycled glass comes from China so we worked really hard to find American-made recycled glass.” The minimalist bar stools were purchased from Lacuna Modern in Fayetteville and the unique lighting fixture from Light Waves Concept.
“The countertops are soapstone LEED-certified from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, and the cabinets are all made of low-outgassing materials made by the same guys who did the hard framing and everything in house.”
The exterior of the cabinets is birch veneer; birch is a faster-growing species than maple and therefore considered to be less environmentally harmful, she said.
Project Team: Albert B. Skiles and Lisa Knemeyer Skiles, AIA
Contractor: Steve Powell, Hickory Creek Builders, Inc.
Consultants: Gary Kahanak, Home Energy Consultants (Energy Star 5+ certification)
Project Area: 1,358 square feet conditioned space (two bedrooms and bath)
2,596 square feet under roof (residence / two car carport / workshop / screen porch and front entry porch)
The Allens wanted to take advantage of the long and narrow infill lot with southern exposure for passive solar energy, and hoped to strain some good out of a tilted roof. “We wanted a house that really popped when people drove by, that was the vanity reason, but the logical reason was for rainwater recapture,” Myria said. “We can quickly fill a reservoir, but should our climate change, in a drought, it will not be hard for us to retrofit and capture the rain.”
With the exposure running from east to west, the site is perfect for continuous upper clerestory windows and a cathedral ceiling to capture daylight and fresh air. It also features fiberglass Ultrex windows for their high efficiency. The couple hopes to eventually install solar panels.
When Myria and A.J. chose the materials for the exterior and interior of the house, they were always mindful to keep it local. “The big beams are forest stewardship-certified, and the pine decking on top came from south Arkansas and north Georgia, which we thought was good because it keeps local people working,” Myria said.