Self-Reliance is a comfortable functional family home inspired by the timeless New England farmhouse. The home’s layout, gable form and materials relate to Vermont’s vernacular architecture, but its details reveal a more modern approach. Our design distills classic domestic architecture to its elements, resulting in a simple, solid shelter that fosters family living.
In our design, we pursue the sense of quality that defines historic farmhouses. We intentionally use natural materials that are durable and safe from cradle to cradle. Such materials are not outdated in a decade, but will maintain their appeal and integrity through time. The design of our home also responds to the inherent quality of natural daylight.
Through efficient and deliberate use of space, we have created a small home in which a family can live comfortably. We distinctly separate public from private areas by providing an open, light-filled living space with a kitchen, dining nook and entertainment system to the west and keeping cellular spaces for sleeping, bathing, and leisure to the east.
We have designed the house to be affordable for an average family of four. With an “as-built” budget of less than $250,000, the home is within the price range of many more people than the over $1 million budgets of many Solar Decathlon houses in the past. By designing a comfortable and functional home for four people (as opposed to one of similar proportions for one or two people), we are maximizing space and developing a more sustainable solution.Vermont Vernacular (Top)
We have distilled the architecture of the New England farmhouse into a pure gable form. Tradition guided our design, but still allowed us to innovate. We drew primarily upon the gable roof, a regional form, to help us deal with the climatic burden of snow and rain. The gable is an appealing, recognizable element that helps identify our structure as a home. The solidity of the form reads as shelter — a home's most basic purpose.Division of Public and Private Space (Top)
Our goal in this competition has been to produce a house that is both functional and comfortable for a family of four. While it is smaller than the average American home, we have maximized our square footage by creating two distinct zones in our house, separating the public from the private. The result is an east-west division, in which the west entry and mudroom open up into a large, public living space while the bedrooms and bathroom are significantly more private.
The public space contains the greenhouse, kitchen and dining nook for food preparation in addition to a comfortable couch and entertainment system for the family and their guests. The space visually and literally opens up to the natural world with large southern glazing and a trio of skylights, further creating a feeling of openness. The natural progression then leads to a centrally located bathroom and mechanical room before moving into the eastern pair of bedrooms. The public-private division is a crucial feature of our house, allowing a family of four both to live and entertain comfortably without compromising their lifestyle.Greenhouse-Wall (Top)
Integrated into the kitchen, the greenhouse-wall provides fresh produce for family meals. We were inspired by Vermont's agrarian landscape to provide the home's occupants with an immediate source of fresh vegetables and greens throughout the colder months. In addition, we have carefully landscaped our site with planters to grow a greater variety of fruits and vegetables in the summer months. The greenhouse and planters represent our team's commitment to sustainability. By allowing for the ample production of fresh food, we are significantly reducing the family's use of water, fossil fuels, pesticides, and fertilizers, while also promoting a healthy lifestyle.Modularization (Top)
We designed Self-Reliance to split into two floor modules and six roof modules so that it can be transported from Vermont to Washington D.C. for the competition, and then back to Vermont. The modules will fit onto three flatbed and two step-deck trucks. Each module will be structurally independent of the others, minimizing the risk of damage during the disassembly and reassembly sequence. We have taken care to design the modular connections to be strong, simple and leak-proof.Response to the Environment (Top)
Self-Reliance is designed to respond to its environment. Vermont has a cold climate, which requires sturdy homes with passive solar capabilities. In turn, Self-Reliance has a significant amount of glazing on the south-facing surfaces to allow for natural daylight and heating, but has minimal glazing and small windows on the north, east and west to minimize heat loss. We've also insulated the home with 11-inch thick walls to fight the cold winters.