No matter what house you occupy there are always changes you’d like to make, obstacles you’d handle differently if you could start over, and preferences you’d be sure to address. One particular hurdle that homeowners face, especially in municipalities, is limited space. Coggan + Crawford, an architectural firm in Brooklyn, New York is striving to make artistic, sustainable architectural strides in improving and creating homes in the very limited space available there.
In their 21st Street Condominiums project, the architects made huge changes to a home that seemed to have a very small number of options. Since the old structure sits close to the street and has no available area to either side, the design firm decided to give the house a complete makeover and marry the existing structure to a new, more sustainable addition to the rear.
The changes made to the Brooklyn home helped it to become 30 percent more energy efficient. They accomplished this by making the floors of concrete, adding large windows to capture the winter sun while shading other openings to keep out the added heat from the summer sun, and heavily insulating the structure.
Zoning requirements demanded that the building have a fire escape, which the architects decided could be used for alternate uses as well like access to a rooftop deck and as a trellis for plants and vines.
In the firm’s Boerum Hill Lofts project, they took a two-story industrial building and transformed it into a two-unit residential structure. One would imagine that they put one unit on each floor, but the architects came up with a much more unique design. By making strategic cuts in the structure they managed to make one two-story unit in the front and one in the back, separated by a courtyard that allows each unit more natural light and heat.
Because the unit is in a newly rezoned residential district, is facing a manufacturing district, and is near new public housing projects, the architects decided its exterior should show a tough front. In order to accomplish this they used folded plates of natural steel with a clear urethane coating, which gives the building the indestructible, industrial façade that fits the area and gives it an air of permanence.
In the Yin Yang House the designers started with the concept of giving the front and back of the houses opposite purposes - one to draw in the light and heat of the sun while the other is more resistant to it. Using darker materials on the building’s northern facing façade, the four-unit residence is able to absorb the less harsh sunlight hours and utilize natural light. The south-facing rear exterior is finished with a white brick. The idea was to create a passive solar model from the front while minimizing glazing on this side of the building and to have an open plan in the rear.
With cost constraints on this project, due to its location in a speculative development in a lower middle class neighborhood, the architects still managed to add efficiency designs and materials to help the structure become 60 percent more energy efficient than is required by code.
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