As the town plan stretches away from the water, density logically loosens. “It’s the basic organization of a human settlement that creates a place people like to live,” says Galina Tahchieva, director of town planning for DPZ. “It’s not high-level thinking. We [as an industry] have just forgotten how they work.”
For his part, Farr didn’t forget how courtyard homes work. Though he likes the style for its charm, privacy, efficient use of land, and access to open-air outdoor space, he also knows that such homes can be tough to ventilate naturally or fill with daylight. To solve the problem, he penciled in operable clerestory windows along the base of the roof deck to direct light and air into the main living area.
“With the [eave] shading and the wall assembly, the house is designed to be comfortable without using the air conditioning,” says Farr. Even if the A/C did come on, the fact that the geothermal system—a standard spec for all Alys Beach homes—does not require an outside compressor eliminates the distracting din of whirring fans throughout the neighborhood, another aspect of comfort.
The exterior walls he refers to are thick masonry with a layer of rigid foam insulation finished with white stucco, an assembly designed to serve as a thermal mass (absorbing heat and then releasing as the house cools) and to be mold-resistant.
The home’s construction also satisfies the IBHS’ “Fortified…for safer living” program standards designed to improve its resistance to natural disasters—in this case, primarily high winds and rain. The program includes geographically specific standards for windows and doors and promotes better connections between the roof, walls, and foundation, among other specifications. “It meets the most stringent storm codes and standards,” says Farr.
Farr’s favorite feature, however, is the roof deck, a long, tiled stretch of outdoor living space concealed by the gable roof on the front of the house and buffered from the back by the array of PV panels. Fitted with a sky-blue trellis, the deck offers an oasis for open-air cooking, dining, and stargazing.
"It’s my attempt to encourage an outdoor lifestyle,” he says, debunking the myth that such spaces are wasted in hot and humid climates. “You actually can go out there most of the day; it’s just you and the sky, a world without air conditioning.” Now that’s refreshing.
Rich Binsacca is a freelance writer in Boise, Idaho.
Architect Doug Farr poses in his Chicago office, September 23, 2008.
Credit: JOHN GRESS
PROFILE: Doug Farr, AIA President & CEO, Farr Associates
Doug Farr is no stranger to green. For 20 years he’s taken a comprehensive view of the concept that only now is gaining mainstream appreciation. “Urbanism is a framework for green building,” says Farr, whose activities include the Congress for New Urbanism and the LEED-ND committee. “What we need is not just CFLs and Priuses, but walkable, transit-served communities with high-performance buildings.”
Farr’s passion for urbanism developed as he grew up in Detroit and witnessed the out-migration of the city’s core during the first energy crisis of the early 1970s. In architecture school, Farr followed an interest in passive solar and honed an appreciation for high-performance building. He eventually landed in Chicago, where his proposal for a local AIA competition outlining a community along one of the city’s elevated commuter rail spurs was used as a political wedge to repair and upgrade the line—and thus inspire new development along its path.
His “ah-ha” moment came a decade ago when he merged his interests and experiences with transit-oriented design, sustainable building practices, and new urban infrastructure for the LEED-Platinum Chicago Center for Green Technology. “LEED has created a new measure for marketing green,” he says, that has logically led to more specific rating systems within the program, including neighborhoods … bringing Farr full circle in his quest.
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