Copperwood broke ground in fall 2015 for family of four seeking an energy efficient, modest, modern dwelling. The site’s name, originated by the Owner’s son, was inspired by the color of the surrounding woods and landscape; an untouched natural site adjacent to farmland and bustling with wildlife, but itself not ideal for agriculture. Ultimately, the design solution was a balance of the unique site opportunities paired with the Owner’s simple lifestyle needs and love of travel.

Of the 20 acres, about 3 were available for construction, with much of the remaining acreage wetlands. Of those 3 acres, an abandoned pipeline intersected from northwest to southeast, helping to further narrow and refine the possible locations and design concepts. 

We knew we wanted to design the spaces for passive solar with an east-west primary orientation, but this was counter to the angled pipeline. Ultimately the pipeline became a major driver of the design concept, resulting in an offset series of bars forming bedroom wing, living wing, and garage wing – each perpendicular to the other forming a z-layout.  Each component steps with the angle while maintaining the desired solar orientation and orthogonal relationships, which also happened to work perfectly for desired views and site access.

It was no problem achieving abundant natural light to the primary living spaces and bedrooms, but we also wanted a nice quality of light in the lower level, which includes a partial walk-out to the south. The desire for more light led to a north-facing light-well garden on the entry side of home, which then led to the idea for the covered bridge feature. 

Since the site is not adjacent to any local roads, it is accessed via a ¾ mile shared easement drive which was once a rail-line. New gravel drive was cut into the landscape at a location framing the most complimentary approach while shielding the vehicle court to the far side. 

Before engaging the architect, the homeowner had researched prefabricated structures to protect their Airstream, but once we got into the design process, we were confident that the Airstream could provide a unique design opportunity; why not incorporate the Airstream into the overall program and design solution as integrated component (guest room, home office). Its placement and turn-around became a unique driver of the design, quickly leading to the wing-roof structure sheltering not just the main living space, but also the covered outdoor space and Airstream dock.

This primary roof element looks out over the landscape with the bedroom and garage wings providing as adjacent anchors. Surrounding sloping landscape remains mostly undisturbed, with extra soils to the south used to create a soccer pitch.


Thermally-treated wood (Ash) siding wraps the Bedroom and Garage Wings and will weather grey. Main living-dining-kitchen spaces are wrapped in pre-finished white cement board with exposed fasteners. Lower level is exposed concrete. Flat roofs are white TPO, and main shed roof is corrugated metal. Front entry and portion of auto canopy are covered with clear corrugated acrylic. Doors and windows are black aluminum clad wood. Skylights are Velux. Custom hardware was designed-fabricated for canopies and treated lumber used for all exposed structure at canopies and roof overhangs with metal end covers at cantilevered joists (left unfinished).


Interior features open concept planning with distinct components for Living, Bedrooms, and Garage detailed to make their relationships apparent inside and out. Exterior materials at bedroom wing continue through to interior making the architectural stair wall cladding. Kitchen space features front and back areas with pass-through to serve outdoor entertaining. Lower level features architectural stair, north light-well, and regulation table tennis area for nationally-rated Owner. Mostly low-tech passive and active green-building strategies were implemented throughout, including passive solar, geothermal HVAC, low-energy appliances and lighting, and smart programmable controls. Home achieved a HERS performance rating of 43, which is 60% better than a standard new energy-code-compliant home.


It was important to the client that the final product met the Architect’s design-intent and that the process was efficient; therefore, Architect also served as the construction manager for the project via sister company (WERK | Building Modern), leading the entire team, including Owner, who assisted with interior finishes design/coordination/oversight. The project was substantially-complete in late September 2016.

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