The Kipps' home is sited on the confluence of the Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay, a spit of land called Windmill Point, a small corner of the world, an island really, Fleet’s Island, located at the southeastern edge of Lancaster County, Virginia. Captain John Smith, the English Explorer, sailed these waters, was stung by a stingray here, and treated in an adjacent body of water named for the ordeal: Antipoison Creek. Here he also met Pocahontas, daughter of the Chief of the Powhatan Indian Tribe. All of this
happened 407 years ago in our backyard.
This point of land is exposed to the ferocious side of nature and has been witness and victim to numerous big storms and hurricanes. The highpoint of this parcel and its adjacent neighbors are three feet above sea level. We are surrounded by wetlands, and the house faces due south. The ever changing views of the Bay and its unimaginable size are humbling. The dramatic orange streaks of sunrise and sunset, particularly in the autumn, can take your breath away. The sounds of Bay side life, the crashing waves on a stormy night, the green tree frogs, and the pelicans and herons in the morning hours are provocative and riveting.
The design theme for the home is a clean, crisp look. No excess furniture is required. There are no sideboards or bureaus. Everything is built-in to minimize the size of each space and to keep it thematically consistent. A pantry keeps the kitchen clean and uncluttered. The white walls, floors, furniture and cabinets prove a soothing and calm backdrop that provides a framework for the naturally artistic elements outside: the swaying indigenous grasses, the blue sky, the beach sand and the Bay water. The number of walls was kept to a minimum. Most spaces flow into each other, strengthening the sense of openness and lightness. The elevated second floor living level gives the feeling that the house floats above the Bay.
The home was designed with two levels. The second level is the primary living level made up of master bedroom suite, living space, dining space, kitchen, and outdoor living area. The views from this level, looking out to the Bay, are best, and the height provides added protection from hurricanes and storm surges. The lower level includes garage, office, guest bedrooms, bath and a second living room. An elevator and a graciously wide stair connect the two levels.
A requirement of the home design was to provide space for a growing collection of two, but mostly three dimensional art that needed to be displayed. The Architect designed niches in many of the rooms to provide safe and well lighted spaces for pieces.
In anticipation of big winds and tidal events, the house was framed in steel, and the sturdy, deep and wide footings are designed to keep the house upright and safe. The house is clad with a curtain wall system of SIPS (Structurally Insulated Panel System). The SIPS are hung from the steel framing. The floor to ceiling windows and doors are an aluminum curtain wall system designed to accept and deflect 120 mile per hour winds. The glass is argon filled and coated to provide UV protection.
The HVAC system is geothermal (ground water source heat pump). The floors on both levels are poured white concrete with hydronic tubes running through them. The tubes contain water that is the medium with which the house is heated. Not only is the house comfortable with radiant heat, but the added bonus of warm floors. In the months when the heating side of the HVAC system is not running, with the help of a device called a Super Desuperheater, the excess hot water is used as
a preheater for the domestic hot water system.
The lighting in the home is entirely LED. Each fixture consuming 11 watts when not dimmed. The fixtures produce enough light that they are seldom turned up beyond 20%, thus consuming far less than 11 watts. Nine fixtures then consume the same amount of electricity as one single 100 watt incandescent light bulb.
The house has been wired in anticipation of PV’s (Photo Voltaic’s or Solar Panels) that when installed will further reduce the homes low energy consumption. The intent is to get as close as possible to net zero energy consumption. The house is equipped with a whole house generator which self starts when the “grid” supply is down for 15 seconds!
The roof is a flat white membrane, called a Cool Roof. The color and material help reflect heat rather than allowing it to be absorbed into the structure. The roof insulation is a sprayed closed cell foam of an exceptionally high insulation value. The composition of the SIPS which is a sandwich of 1/2” sheathing on both sides of a 5 1/2” layer of rigid insulation is such that thermal bridging (the concept of heat or cold being transferred through the building envelope) is eliminated or reduced substantially.
A series of automated solar window shades and blackout shades in the bedroom controls the amount of heat and light allowed into the building at any given moment, thus limiting the amount of energy consumed cooling the home. The shades have a specified fabric “openness” factor that allows a view through the shades of a kind of gossamer quality.
Lighting controls were equally important to the intended drama of the home. Different lighting levels of a variety of light fixtures can be turned on by programmed switches or an app on a personal device: iPad or iPhone.
Our home has proven to be a very successful experiment in that a building of thoughtful energy efficiencies and simple structural necessities could also be a bright, light, cheery and minimalist environment. It is a home that delights us every day and makes each moment spent there exceptional. Truly a gallery to the way we live our lives!
If you would like to discuss your dream home design or renovation with Randall Kipp, please contact him at: Randall Kipp Architecture, Inc, 81 King Carter Drive, Irvington, VA 22480, 804-438-6287, kipparchitecture.com.