Architecture Lab

The Matchbox House, Michigan / USA by ba-u

The concept for the house is a matchbox in which the four inner quadrants (cedar siding) slip past one another within the outer sleeve (standing seam metal wrapper)
The Matchbox House, Michigan / USA by ba-u

Steve Maylone © Maylone Photography

Project Details:
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Type: ResidentialHouses
Clients: Azar and Hormoz Alizadeh (the house currently is rented out to tenants, it is not currently occupied by the owners)
Architects: Bureau for Architecture and Urbanismwww.ba-u.com
Design Team: Naseem Alizadeh
Landscape Architect: Tad Krear
Year: 2012
Size: 1740 sf (162 square meters) of conditioned space
Program: four bedroom single family house w/ a one car garage; kitchen, laundry, dining area, living area, 2 full bathrooms and one WC.
Structural Engineer: Cory Johnston
Mechanical Engineer: Matt Snider
Photos: Steve Maylone

The concept for the house is a matchbox in which the four inner quadrants (cedar siding) slip past one another within the outer sleeve (standing seam metal wrapper).  By doing so, each end of the inner quadrants either juts out past the outer sleeve, or is pushed into it, thereby creating outdoor space that is still within the confines of the sleeve. The house is meant to read as an urban cottage nestled in the woods and therefore in its approaching (short) elevation it has the geometry of an iconic 4 sided house. To articulate this even more, it is raised on an inset concrete plinth, which expresses the bottom two edges (and therefore fifth side) that would normally touch the ground.

The house has four bedrooms, 1,740 sf of conditioned space and a one car garage. It is on track to receive LEED Platinum Certification. It has a HERS rating of 47 and many “green” features, including FSC wood, reclaimed trim from demolished barns, no conventional turf (no irrigation) and low flow plumbing fixtures. The house is meant to be small and compact: every area in this house is used (there is neither an attic nor a basement). Because of this, the house has rooms which vary in volume and create dynamic spaces. The upstairs rooms have dramatic ceilings that begin at 3’-0” and end at 16’-0”. A portion of the main living area has a double volume space which goes to the roof.

The Matchbox House, Michigan / USA by ba-u

Steve Maylone © Maylone Photography

“Green” Features (Performance Qualifications): Because the house is smaller than the standard American house, its LEED threshold (points needed for each level of certification) was dropped by 10 points. The house is situated on a wooded lot. It was important to have as little site impact as possible. Only the footprint of the house, driveway, and septic area were disturbed or had trees removed. The only added landscaping is native. Outside of the footprint of the house, the lot is entirely permeable.

The mechanical system is state of the art, with an appropriately sized 40,000 Btu furnace and a two ton heat pump/ERV. Filters are MERV 15 and all appliances and light fixtures are Energy Star Certified. There is an on demand hot water heater with a compact distribution system and central manifold. In addition, all pipes are insulated. Insulation in the roof includes 1” of foam board. Walls include 1” of closed cell foam. The house has a 2 KW solar panel on the south facing roof. Windows are high efficiency. All fixtures and fittings (toilet, faucets, and showers) are very high efficiency.

Material efficiency was an important part of the construction of the house. All studs, joists, and roof rafters are 24” on center as opposed to the standard of 16” on center. Waste diversion from landfills was +30%. FSC certified wood was used for the stairs and railings, all interior doors, kitchen and bathroom millwork, and upper finished floor. The trim used for windows, doors, and the wall base had been reclaimed from a demolished barn in the region. All interior paints, stains, and sealants were low VOC. Kitchen countertop and exterior decking materials both had post-consumer recycled content.

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