Clad in Weathering Steel, This Oakland Hills Remodel Packs Sustainable Features

Designed by Faulkner Architects, the 3,000-square-foot residence strives to visually (and ecologically) defer to its wooded surroundings.

Courtesy of Joe Fletcher Photography

A young family seeking an eco-friendly residence that connected to the landscape tapped Faulkner Architects to replace an outdated house in the hilly eastern stretches of Oakland, California. The house, completed in 2016, occupies a densely wooded eight-acre site, filled with mature oak trees. “Those big trees felt like a refuge before we even built anything,” writes architect Greg Faulkner, principal of his eponymous local firm, in his project description. “They’re a free material that became part of the house.”

The clients, who are both environmental scientists, made clear that the project should respect its surroundings. “We approached the site with the goal of minimizing intervention whenever possible,” Faulkner tells Metropolis. Due to soil instability, the old house’s existing foundation wasn’t reusable, but Faulkner worried about further disturbance to the site. The solution was to build a new foundation on the existing footprint while also sheathing the original fireplace in concrete, creating vital structural reinforcement that minimized the need to reshape the landscape further.

Courtesy of Joe Fletcher Photography

For the exterior, the architects selected Cor-ten steel cladding for its durability and its “live” finish (As it faces rain and moisture, the weathering steel panels will slowly grow a protective layer of rust). The clients also found the skin deferential to the surrounding environment: “We chose a hyper-minimal palette because the site itself speaks so loudly in its pattern of filtered light and textures,” Faulkner says. “A quiet house allows the home to bow to the landscape, allowing the landscape to be heard.”

The clients also pushed for sustainable design at every junction, offering to pay extra for eco-friendly features. A rainwater collection system gathers water for the house’s toilets, sinks, showers and laundry; the greywater produced by the latter three are in turn used to irrigate the landscaping. An energy recovery ventilator lowers the HVAC system’s electrical usage while an 8.1-kilowatt solar panel array provides additional clean electricity.

Courtesy of Joe Fletcher Photography

An intimate relationship with the landscape extends into the interior. To help with the interior, Faulkner worked alongside designer Amber Autumn Tillman of San Francisco-based DZINE (she has since left to start her own firm.) Unfinished white oak, white walls, and basalt stone flooring all serve to contrast with the surrounding forest. “The central value here,” says Faulkner, “is that the project is an exercise and continuation of a larger thread of awareness, of achieving a quiet presence in the field, and a haptic relationship between inside and outside.” 

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Categories: Architecture, Residential Architecture