The Phoenix Project: A Modern, Residential Rebuilding Project in San Diego

New concepts and materials link memories of a beloved former home with a sense of excitement about the future. A devastating fire demolished the original structure and consumed personal belongings collected over thirty years, leaving the family bereft and uncertain about how to move forward. The steep canyon site is part of a dense urban neighborhood, rich in history and architectural diversity. Constraints on rebuilding included maintaining the existing 2,500 square foot envelope to enable a fast-track permitting status. Immediately adjacent neighbors demand visual and acoustic privacy, achieved through sensitive placement of openings. The design challenge: To insert a new home full of light and promise into this established neighborhood, using a template from the past. The solution preserves aspects of the former home that the owners loved, while incorporating materials less common in local residential construction. Here we use structural channel glass, cement fiberboard siding installed as a rain-screen system, structural insulated roof panels (SIPs) and interior millwork fabricated exclusively with lyptus wood. A continuous clerestory is possible with channel glass, allowing light to permeate the entire interior without compromising neighbors’ privacy. Cement fiberboard siding is non-flammable, impervious to insects, and is very low-maintenance. SIPs roof panels give us generous spans and ease of installation. This is an energy-efficient home using high performance systems and sustainable materials. For example, the exterior siding’s rain-screen installation is excellent insurance against moisture penetration. On the inside, lyptus rivals cherry or mahogany in appearance, while being sustainably grown and managed. A tankless water heater and low-energy use fluorescents are installed. All appliances are quiet and demonstrate industry standards of energy efficiency. The low street-front profile expands in section to capture dramatic canyon views. A diagonal wall with channel glass unifies the design by creating a clear and dramatic sense of identity for the new structure, while effectively separating common from private spaces. In addition, the glass wall acts as a light conduit through the house; sun shines directly through clerestory channel glass, indirectly through translucent amber glass, and bounces off the surface itself. The wall sparks discussion on all aspects of design: function, form and cost. Up-front costs, higher than most residential new-construction projects, will pay back in the future through the use of low-maintenance and energy-saving materials. This project aims to seamlessly integrate a new structure within an established neighborhood while advancing alternative ideas of residential construction.

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Home & Garden Television What’s With That House? Air Times: July 18, 19 and 31, 2007 View details >> The San Diego Union-Tribune “Green Light” June 17, 2007 Story by Ann Jarmusch sdhome Magazine “Environmental Phoenix” Summer 2007 Story by Ann Jarmusch San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine “Modern ‘Graceland’ family rebuilds a home in Mission Hills.” December 2006


Architect: Heather Johnston Architect Location: Mission Hills, San Diego Program: New 2,500 s.f. residence within previously existing footprint Builder: McGirr Construction Ltd. Engineer: HT Design Group Ltd. Photographs: Marvin Rand, Glenn Courmier, HJA Landscape: Livingstone Landscape Architecture