Home on the Intracoastal Waterway

Home on the Intracoastal Waterway

Private Houses
Rehoboth Beach, United States - Build completed in 2016
John Cole Photography

Home on the Intracoastal Waterway

Gardner Architects LLC as Architects

The Intracoastal Waterway runs along the east coast of the United States, connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico and comprising many kinds of waterways. This project sits on one of those waterways – the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal – in a coastal maritime forest with sandy dunes, and facing grassy marshes and perennial wetlands.


The design agenda called for a sensitive response to climate and site. The house is sited to maximize views to the canal and wetlands, while providing a variety of protected and shaded exterior spaces. The form of the house is split by a glazed entry foyer, offering views along a continuous boardwalk from the streetside through the foyer to the canal and marsh.


Creating a shaded place, saving all the trees on site, capturing yet sheltering from sun and breeze, maximizing views, creating habitat – these are some of the project’s sustainable strategies employed to decrease energy demand and enhance building-site synergies. The project focuses on passive and active sustainable strategies in order to decrease energy demands and burden on the local utilities. By creating a strategically shaded, highly insulated building envelope, employing a geothermal system and an energy recovery ventilator, energy costs are minimized. Carefully positioned operable windows and skylights, including in the open, gabled stairway, allow for natural ventilation and take advantage of the stack effect. The strategic location of shading devices – exterior solar shades and a trellis – rounds out the suite of passive approaches.


The home is a home for the beach, not a suburban home transplanted to the beach. The design recalls the traditions of the cabins that used to comprise this community. The heart of the home is where the towels are! Spaces for circulation, gathering, and chance encounters of the extended family and friends who gather and hang about the inside and outsides spaces. The kitchen bridges the interior and exterior, linking a porch with the living and dining areas. Materials are matter of fact, rough-hewn, utilitarian. A home for the grill, kayaks, laundry, outdoor showers, and beach storage were as important as spaces for sleeping, eating, and gathering.

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