Workbook Spotlight: Water and Fog

Overlooking the San Francisco Bay, this 60’s era structure was initially meant to only be remodeled. However, the presence of powder beetles impacted the design plans; the original house was demolished and a new FEMA compliant structure built. In fact, it’s the only FEMA-compliant house in the area. We spoke with Heidi Richardson, Principal of Richardson Architects, about the project.

courtyard_PanoramaCan you talk a bit about how you interpreted the client’s vision and the overall concept of the project?

Water and fog were important elements and shaped our approach to the design. The client wanted to maximize the expansive views of Mt. Tam to the west and the Golden Gate Bridge to the northeast; and, at the same time, create a private, zen-like abode that took advantage of its coastal location. As a result, we designed a home with two distinct masses that flank a front courtyard and a back deck. The front courtyard leads to a glass-entry, which spills open into the dining room. From there, another set of folding glass doors reveals the back deck area, leading to the water’s edge. The design allows for unobstructed views and encourages the flow of fresh air and natural light while establishing a strong relationship to the water.

How did you maximize views will making sure there was adequate privacy?

In order to maximize the views while making sure there was adequate privacy, we integrated an H-rear deck17269_Deckjpgshaped footprint. The bedroom wing occupies one arm of the H and the public living space occupies the other. The two wings are separated and connected by a flat roof stair hall and define the two open courtyards. On the sides of the house that border the neighbors’ property, we minimized the use of windows. Instead, windows and folding glass doors perimeter the walls that face the courtyards allowing for private panoramic views. For the façade, we installed wood shutters that provide privacy from the uphill neighbors across the street while allowing light and air inside.

Do you approach a coastal project differently than those that are more land locked? What elements do you take into consideration?

Street Elevation17203Materials are a very important factor when designing a residence on the water. Like all projects, we take into consideration the climate and location, but for this property we also had to consider the reflection of water and the salt air. From a structural point of view, we were mindful of coastal wind zones and chose materials that work best in a coastal environment. We put a lot of effort into detailing the windows and folding glass doors. We ended up sourcing windows from Italy because they are more heavy duty when it comes to wind and weather proofing.

The house needed to be FEMA compliant, can you talk a little more about the design elements or technologies you implemented to achieve this?

What started off as a renovation, turned into a ground-up construction project. The original intent had been to save and remodel the existing 1960’s structure; however, when powder post beetles were discovered, the existing structure needed to be demolished and a new FEMA compliant house designed and built. To achieve FEMA, we had to set the house back away from the shoreline and elevate the level of the first floor. We used concrete piers to provide weather protection and we waterproofed the skin. The home is the only totally FEMA-compliant structure in the area.

What were some of the materials used in the construction?

For the structure, we used a combination of Ipe wood and stucco. Fireproof and salt air proof materials are incorporated, including a weather screen of Resysta panels fabricated from rice husks, and long used in Asia for boat decks. Because of its durability and resilience to mildew and decay, we also used Ipe for the decks. Ipe patinas over time and will eventually grey to a fog-like color, further blending the home with its environs. When designing the roof, we chose a high-performing zinc roof system and installed solar panels. For the windows, we sourced an energy efficient European window system that has a low-E glass coating and is extremely water and weather tight.

Photos by Jeff Zaruba



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