Back40House located in Pendleton, Indiana, was named by our clients to reflect on family-owned property granted in the early 1800s in 160 acre parcels by the U.S. government. Six generations and 200 years later, they claimed the southwest 40 and returned to Indiana from California to design and build their dream home.
HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles
YEAR : 2020
LOCATION : Pendleton, IN
ARCHITECTURE : HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles
Back40House was named by our clients to reflect on family-owned property granted in the early 1800s in 160 acre parcels by the U.S. government. Six generations and 200 years later, they claimed the southwest 40 and returned to Indiana from California to design and build their dream home.
They had been away from Indiana for 10+ years, and had been working with Tesla to help develop the Model S. This passion for engineering followed them back to Indiana, where they own a racing team for midget and Formula F entry-level series cars. They also brought their keen sensibilities for Midcentury Modern architecture, interiors, and art. Each was a major influence for our ongoing discussions and ultimate design solutions.
Our client had an exciting vision and a thirst for quality design, but the process was not without challenges. First, how do we most effectively navigate a modern aesthetic into a rural agrarian environment with no immediate architectural context? Second, how do we manage our client’s initial goals of 1,600sf living space for a ‘too-low’ construction cost goal? Third, how do we handle bank financing + comparables/appraisals for a one-of-a-kind project in Pendleton, Indiana? Fourth, as architects + construction managers, how do we handle the onset of COVID-19 right in the middle of the construction process?
The client said they had been following our work for a few years, and pointed-out a few of their preferences inherent in another of our recent design-build projects for inspiration. They also shared with us their previous design-build experience with a production builder, and how they were not satisfied due to inherent limitations with that process. For sure they were looking for overall leadership, and were attracted to the design + construction specialty that we offer between our two related, architect-led companies.
Our friendly clients flew-in for a day-long personal introduction, site visit and design kick-off session. The initial design solution orients for site access, approach, and larger vehicle navigation. Primary residence garage and racing team workshop volumes align in a repetitive south-to-north position oriented to the new access drive on the east edge of site clearing.
From these modern detached structures, we turned 90-degrees east-to-west to position the primary living spaces in a passive solar orientation. All living spaces are organized around the entry hall with covered access points at each end for effective indoor/outdoor transitions.
The materiality and details borrow inspiration from the site’s pre-existing structures and antique farm equipment. Vertical rustic-channel wood cladding contrasts with weathering steel, providing an evolving material contrast that helps the art studio and primary suite stand apart. These natural materials continue a humble industrial quality, but are executed with a new level of precision and detail. On the interiors, natural light, site views, and spatial proportion help layer the sequence of spaces. Then from there, inside-out finishes and color further articulate and clarify formal design relationships and client sensibilities.
Regarding size and budget, we helped navigate expectations during the design process. Ultimately we ended-up at 2,300sf finished living space for a higher, but workable construction base cost, plus workshop for an additional allowance. Sustainability Stats – Baseline Energy Use Intensity (EUI): Typical Residential Home (130 Zero Score) – Target EUI: (50 Zero Score) – Projected EUI: (50 Zero Score) – Percent Reduction from Baseline: 60%. Please see photo captions on subsequent images below for more about the overall design and environmental sustainability strategies.
After the design efforts, we ran into some issues with financing. Our client’s first two bank contacts fell through; one due to comp/appraisal difficulty, and another due to limitations in other financing requirements. After the second effort fell-through, architect connected client with a previous partner recommendation with success. And with that, we were underway.
Smooth sailing? No … 40%-in, COVID-19 hits. Some things did slow a bit, but we were able to navigate the unknowns for this relatively small project where most of the trade contractors and lead-time items were already lined-up. By sticking to the plan with some minor adjustments, we were able to achieve success.
Success: Architect-Led Design, Interiors, and Construction
We feel like this was another good case study illustrating the benefits of architect-led construction for a smaller, more detailed project. After 18 months living in the home, the materials are beginning to show their natural progression and patina. But what really makes it rewarding is how the project is living and the satisfaction of our clients.
“OMG!!!!!! I can’t believe we get to live in this beautiful home. I mean, we have appreciated it even before it was built. But to see it from this perspective (the new photos) and the, angles, light, and shadow just BLEW ME AWAY! Thank you, thank you. It’s incredibly overwhelming in the best way. Thanks to you and everyone else that helped make this dream come to fruition. It’s such an incredible honor. We’re feeling so grateful and fortunate.” (Client Testimonial)
On the Back40House approach, a thoughtful layering of natural, weathering materials becomes evident on the exterior.
Client interview – PreDesign Phase
East-west oriented primary dwelling is countered with a series of detached garages running north-south. Together, the Back40House volumes frame the north yard and views to the surrounding tree line.
On entry, we see outside materials continue inside. Then those surfaces are framed further to reveal interior spaces beyond.
As one can see at Back40House entry, design simplicity often requires complex thought, precise execution and . . . p a t i e n c e .
From Back40House entry hall one engages the primary suite to the right. Primary bath benefits from roof light above, and connects directly to the covered spa outside.
Taking a few steps further, we discover the primary bedroom and its artfully-appointed interior. We’re immediately drawn to the autumn panorama through the horizontal glazing. Then from the exterior, we can see how the colorful palette permeates inside-out.
Flat-roof rainwater is channeled to open-mouth scuppers that won’t clog from site debris – resilient, low-maintenance, sustainable drainage solutions.
Client desired a creative space with ample natural light and excellent views. Design + build team highlighted the Back40House art studio with shed roof + high ceilings to prioritize north light on the inside.
Then the exterior cladding and form help studio stand apart on the outside. After move-in, clients added strings to the window exteriors to deter/protect birds.
The art studio claims the northwest portion of the Corten-clad shed, directly west of primary suite. The studio’s position, windows, and cladding highlight its presence in the overall composition. With thoughtful positioniing of foundations and framing, the the architecture transitions from grounded to elevatied.
The section looking east reveals how Back40House kitchen interior echoes art studio exterior. Central east-west entry hall bisects the opposing butterfly sheds and provides indoor-outdoor covered access at each end.
Windows on east and west exposures are minimized and sheltered to limit east-west solar gain.
Kitchen + Views
New double-glazed, aluminum-clad wood, low-E windows + sliding doors orient to capitalize on best views.
Custom Mahogany millwork anchors the kitchen core, wrapping corner to reveal pantry-prep area with integrated return air and workspace.
New high-efficiency appliances and plumbing fixtures, heat pump HVAC system + water heating, hot water recirculating loop, generator-ready (propane option – no natural gas on-site), and LED light fixtures further contribute to project sustainability and resilience. Garage is prepped for EV charging, and PV-ready rough-ins are included.
The structure transitions from grounded to elevated, allowing the existing topography and drainage to remain mostly intact – minimal site impact
The unvented roof system integrates closed-cell board continuous insulation over deck + cellulose insulation under deck (R-56 or better) + 2×6 exterior walls with R21 blown-in batts + insulated headers – highly-insulated thermal envelope.
Insulated and conditioned crawl space – area of floating floors are R-56 (blown-in cellulose).
Pre-stained rustic channel Western Red Cedar siding is long-lasting for low-maintenance and durability – natural, renewable materials + butterfly shed roofs are light-colored standing s-seam – resilient materials + minimize heat island effect.
Long ago, the government granted large plots of land to families in 160 acre parcels. Per below, the land for Back40House has been in our client’s family since the early 1800’s, with 80 of the original 160 acres still family-owned.
From client page:
05 March 2019 – “So we are starting the journey to move back home to Indiana. Our time in California has been great, but our family and friends back home are pulling at our hearts. We have the opportunity to build our dream home on property that has been in our family for six generations. We will be building on the back forty acre parcel that was part of the original 160 acres settled by my family in the early 1800s. So we have nicknamed our future home the “Back40House”. Be sure to follow this page to see it all come together…from a clean sheet of paper and an open meadow, to the home where we will continue to care for the land that our family has cared for over the past 200 years.”
06 March 2019 – “As we will be building on family property, I have been digging in to the history a bit. I found this great map of Adams Township from 1876. Notice the highlighted block then owned by J. S. Davis. That was my 3rd great grandfather John Smithson Davis. The Back40House will be in the south west corner of that plot. We are so grateful that our family has kept this property over the years, and fortunate to have the opportunity to carry on that tradition.”
Our clients, Brad and Nan were living in California when we began the design process. Brad and Nan flew-in for our first site and design charrette meeting in early February 2019 and we made a productive day of it. We started off the day walking the site to get a feel for the lay-of-the-land. After that, we headed to the HAUS studio for team introductions and an afternoon design-brainstorming session.
Having explored a few ideas and variations, the architect and client settled on the two similar diagrams below that represent the essence of the design direction. Generally, these two variations express a difference in material concept. The client and design team settled on the bottom diagram, allowing the studio-master suite volume to become a special accent material setting itself apart from the predominant material.
Main House is to the lower left, two lateral volumes separated with a central entry hall. And to the right, garage is detached and connected via breezeway/entry porch. Also, to the north, more detached garage volumes continue the same massing and materiality to make-up owner workshop.
Site Staking Day
To get our septic design completed, we first needed to stake the building locations. Things ended-up pretty close to where we thought they would on the site plan, but we did make a few adjustments on-the-fly based on topography and existing treeline locations. The surveyors were good to work with and they spotted the grade elevations we needed to make final design adjustments.
07.28.19 – We have septic approvals, and are awaiting building permit review. Albeit, we anticipate having footings in the ground and back-filled by mid-September so we can then be weathered-in by end of November. For sure, we want to be sure we aren’t held-up by the winter weather.
Clearing a Path
This photos below were taken on on the first day heavy equipment showed-up to cut the new access drive and clear a route through the treeline. Soon thereafter, we would be excavating for and pouring footings.
Jack Is Happy About It!
The Frogs Are Probably Not Happy About It
Forming Foundation Walls
The massive rectangular footing and foundation on the elevated west-end of the house is under the double indoor-outdoor fireplaces. Since this end of the house is elevated on piers, this footing and wall above it will serve as the primary shear wall on this end. Shear walls keep the building from swaying sideways from wind, earthquake, or wild house parties (housequakes).
One may wonder why would someone come-up with a pier design like this? Good question. We put a lot of thought and effort into designing the piers to be integral and complimentary to the overall building massing. Altogether, we explored a number of variations to arrive at the final solution. Simplicity is always a goal, but this doesn’t look that simple. We joke that it’s a lot of work to make things simple, and simple oftentimes can be more complicated.
Rough Carpentry Commences
This giant window wall frames a view from the Kitchen island north. During the design process, we put a great deal of thought into how best to frame views inside-out and outside-in. It’s rewarding to see the concepts develop into built form. It’s fun to be an architect.
A few years ago, we helped a client with their Midcentury Modern house in the Glendale neighborhood on the northeast side. It had the most incredible living space. What made it incredible? Besides the nicely-scaled space, it had the most amazing quality of light. Clerestory windows surrounded it continuously on all sides. We’ll never forget that space, and we refer to it often when designing new spaces. For Back40House, we’ve incorporated an east-facing clerestory window to bring in a similar quality of natural light. In conjunction with the 12-foot tall vertical slot window in the same space on axis with the entry, we’re really eager to see how the light defines this bedroom and changes throughout the day and from season to season.
Flat Roof Design
Although it appears so, not all of the roofs on Back40House are “flat”. The two “bars” are sheltered with 2:12 metal panel shed roofs, one preweathered galvalume, and one Corten steel. Together, these two sheds form a pseudo “butterfly roof” configuration. Flat roof between the sheds collects all water and channels it to the open-mouth scuppers located at porch awnings. This flat-roof connector continues over the breezeway to garage, which also has identical details.
Flat roofs are not really flat, and can have whatever degree of slope we want to design-in. The more slope the better, to eliminate the potential for any standing or pooling water. It’s best to design-in more tolerance to all building systems to allow for certain field-condition variances. And good roof design is not just about slopes and roofing materials. In fact, there are many considerations beyond waterproofing. These considerations include but are not limited to, insulation techniques, ventilation (or not), orientation, drainage management, color, solar gain, penetrations, climate, climate zone, etc.
Corten Siding Sample
We are using Corten steel for north studio siding. However, this sample below is not what we selected. Instead we decided to use the rounded 7/8″ corrugation profile.
For those not familiar with Corten “weathering” steel, it is designed to rust. Corten’s chemistry allows the rust or patina to form a protective layer that then maintains itself without rusting all the way through. It is designed to last many, many years. See these Dezeen articles about weathering steel to see how beautiful it can be. So when you see the rusty siding, it is by design and meant to give a dynamic contrast with adjacent materials – it clads Nan’s creative studio, and thus deserves some pop!
Rainscreen Siding Delivery
We are doing a two-tone rustic channel cedar siding that arrives prefinished. This below is the lighter of the two tones. We sampled various products and landed on this option. It’s a bit more brown than the renderings, but wood is brown, folks. The grays were also a bit pricey. The darker of the two cedar sidings (not shown) is more in the gray family – dark color disguises the brown tone a bit more. Accordingly, the plan is to let the woods weather, meaning we are going to let them naturally patina (ie, turn gray).
The Workshop, detached Garage, and south house wing are cedar. However, the north mass is corrugated Corten steel siding (see the “parti” diagram at the top of the story – the yellow mass in the diagram is the Corten siding and roofing).
Interior Details Underway
Perforated Steel Screenwall Installation
Entry Hallway Features Unique Materials
We wanted to honor the concept diagram, so it made sense to continue exterior materials inside to realize a cohesive design. For the Cedar sided areas, that was relatively easy. But we weren’t sure we wanted to bring the Corten steel inside. We were afraid it would be a bit rough for interior use (staining clothes and the like) and how would we get it to patina inside. After considering pre-patina and sealers, we ultimately decided on a painted vertical poplar detail as indicated below. We also used this detail for the interior fireplace wrap.
For the concrete floors, we used a lightweight concrete over a vapor barrier and wood structure. More recently on the G BLOC project, we cut control joints to control the crack locations (normal industry expectation). The end-result at G BLOC was a success despite a few obstacles along the way. For Back40House, we and Owner decided to not do any joints, and just let it crack where it cracks.
This decision was informed by the concrete supplier advice. They advised that with so many door openings (primarily in the entry hall), it’s going to crack where it wants to crack, even with control joints. We decided on no control joints and saved a few bucks. We did get more cracking in the hallway. Surprisingly, the larger living spaces are virtually crack-free.
For final finish, we filled the cracks with sealant, ground the finish to a terrazzo look, and provided multi-layer clear-coat for a natural gray finish (we will provide finish photos).
Special Kitchen Wood Veneer
We are loving how the kitchen cabinetry details are coming together. We had some issues with the black island top, but were able to get that replaced. This images show a stainless steel finish for the range, but it was supposed to be a black finish. It looked great in stainless steel, and the wait time for replacement was a long wait. Ultimately, Owner decided to stick with the stainless unit.
Cabinet doors and drawers have touch-latch operation.
Corner Window Views
Corten Siding Patinas
Scuppers Celebrate Precipitation Events
We’ve been doing a lot of new modern projects on wooded sites. For that reason, we have needed to find low-maintenance solutions that divert precipitation while also considering how to handle debris (leaves, branches). One of our more common solutions is the use of open-mouth roof scuppers. Downspouts and debris screens have a tendency to clog. So, we’ll often design solution that eliminates downspouts completely.
The wide opening will also allow leaves and other debris to fall off of the roof. Sure, we’ll still have branches and other debris that needs to be maintained from time-to-time depending on the site. But this solution will allow water to overflow and not collect on the roof, minimizing maintenance requirements.
“You guys are masters of the orthogonal”, Paul Puzzello (13 March 2021)
Please check back – we’ll be adding to the story (design + construction).