Architect Christian Gladu considers the term “bungalow” to be more of a philosophy than a style guideline. After college, he worked in Seattle where he became enthralled by the many small, single-family houses in urban settings. He’s since moved to Oregon and started his own firm, appropriately called The Bungalow Company, but he still pushes clients to embrace the concept of efficient, economical houses.
“In my mind, “bungalow” means a smaller building that is of the earth,” explains Gladu, the architect for the new Bethesda Bungalows’ Chevy Chase, Md. dwelling featured in EcoHome’s online exclusive series Start to Finish: Building a Green Home. “I’ve done some very contemporary buildings, but it’s still of that type for me because of its layout and its relationship to the site.” Gladu tries to minimize square footage by generating flexible indoor spaces, maximizing natural light, and producing multiple outdoor areas. His designs for Bethesda Bungalows are bigger than his West Coast homes because of real estate and financial pressures in the D.C. market, but a lot of that extra space goes underground. “Basements go a long way in mediating the discrepancy between my personal preference and the area’s market. We still impact the environment by excavating, but it is a good place for mechanical systems and the garage.”
Fortunately, the clients for this Bethesda Bungalows project were already on board with a sustainable approach, which made reducing size and adding more sustainable features feasible. In fact, the husband came to their first meeting on his bicycle, which is how he frequently commutes to work, so Gladu knew immediately the couple was committed to a green program.
Plus, the owners asked for a simplified version of the builder’s concept model called The Incredibly Green House, a custom house Gladu designed that earned LEED-Platinum and NGBS-Emerald ratings.
Having clients in tune with sustainable ideals and being able to alter an existing plan reduced Gladu’s design labors and left more of the budget for more costly green features like spray-foam insulation and a geothermal heating system (an element that has since been scrapped because of site issues). And although the project required demolition of the family’s existing house, many materials were salvaged or recycled.
Another advantage was that the clients were willing to worry less about resale and think more about how they’d use the spaces now and over time. Fewer bedrooms and bathrooms and a simple basement eliminated almost 1,000 square feet from the footprint of the design Gladu altered. At around 3,800 square feet, it’s not exactly a small house, he concedes, but sometimes dedicated spaces represent responsible design. In this case, ample, comfortable home offices for both owners cut back on driving commutes while a playroom can be converted into a study area, an entertainment room, or a bedroom later on.
Should the homeowners need to remodel, however, the architect minimized interior load-bearing walls to allow for simple alterations. Other space-enhancing features include a floor plan focused on interconnectivity and—Gladu’s personal design must—natural light in every room from at least three directions, even if that third angle is a hallway or door.
A big part of the owners’ program includes yard space for kicking around a soccer ball; putting the garage below grade leaves more of the 5,000-square-foot lot available for outdoor activities. It also improves the all-important curb appeal by minimizing the garage’s bulk and improving street access for the sloped site.
The clients’ desire for a functional yard fits nicely into Gladu’s philosophy. The architect aims to design houses that are “of the earth” by creating multiple outdoor spaces as seamless extensions of interiors. Even if they don’t add a lot of square footage or expose a panoramic view, exterior rooms add a sense of openness and make you feel better inside a space, he claims.
For example, a small master suite balcony doesn’t overlook a particularly desirable vista, but it adds the sense of largess to the interior space. More importantly, a myriad of windows and doors with a variety of exposures will flood the home with natural light that gives the occupants awareness of where they are in relation to the time of day and the season.
Shelley D. Hutchins is the Web Producer for EcoHome.