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Best Green Houses:

Going Antiquing: A guest house features salvage at many scales.

Carver + Schicketanz Architects
Santa Barbara, California

By David Sokol
February 2012
Photo © Claudio Santini

Among the old barns lining the road in the Santa Ynez hills near Santa Barbara, California, a guest house adapted from a century-old structure by Carver + Schicketanz Architects seems to fit right in. Come nighttime it stands out like a lantern: The Carmel, California–based architects clad the rehabilitated barn in a translucent structural composite that transmits natural illumination, as well as light from within.

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The 2,600-square-foot building was intended for long visits from the client’s four daughters and two grandchildren. “It’s a pretty remote site; you’re not going to town everyday,” firm principal Rob Carver says. There is much to recommend homebody behavior, too: The 20-acre property saddles a ridge that enjoys excellent views and southern California weather conditions. Carver says of the design commission, “It was supposed to be a party house that really takes advantage of the climate.”

Thanks to the building type’s large sliding doors and hayloft configuration, rehabilitating a barn made as much sense for the fun, indoor-outdoor program as it did contextually. Carver + Schicketanz sourced the hand-hewn oak artifact from a New Hampshire farm, and had it deconstructed, transported, and reassembled atop red, four-and-a-half-foot-tall steel pedestal columns via blade connections.

“We probably sited it 90 degrees from how I would have normally tucked it into the hillside, in order to optimize solar access,” Carver says of the California barn raising. The building’s orientation maximizes sun exposure to the rooftop solar hot water system that supplies radiant heating. By using the translucent skin for the building’s south elevation and partly on its east and west sides, as well, the design team ensured uniform penetration of diffuse daylight. The composite material (which includes 20 percent recycled content) reveals the timber structure and seismic bracing at night.

Temperate climate allowed Carver + Schicketanz to select an envelope product with higher translucency and less insulating value than other choices. For that same reason, the guest house requires no mechanical ventilation except a whole-house fan. Air flows easily through its tremendous workaday doors and lofted section.

In another example of history informing the residence’s design, recycled materials characterize much of the interior. Many walls are made of old corrugated metal. Water buckets and pipes were transformed into bathroom sinks and towel racks, respectively, and a watering can is now the spout of an outdoor shower. Old fruit and drink crates with their stamps still visible serve as kitchen drawers. Although the completed guest house is made for laying low, for this phase of project implementation the client ventured outward. She sourced these materials herself, mostly by visiting the many flea markets that—in another example of reuse—set up temporary shop in northern Los Angeles’s defunct drive-in movie theaters.

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