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Versatile passive house to balance live/work, urban/country

As an architect passionate about passive solar and urban live/work design, Alan Cohen got tired of waiting for a client to commission something that would test his green building skills, so he built something for himself.

He moved from a 3,000 square foot home miles from his job to a multi-use property in downtown Healdsburg (CA) where he packed 4,000 square feet of office (1050 sq ft), home (1730 sq ft), art studio for his wife and garage onto a 3,750 square foot lot.

His dream house is both efficient with space (a 1730 sq ft home is about 2/3rds the size of the average home in the area) and energy. Cohen uses passive solar for heating and cooling his home, complete with industrial fans, venting windows, well-designed holes in the floor (between floors) for air flow and first floor concrete floors for thermal storage.

He also added plenty of “common sense” green design tricks he’d learned during his several decades as an architect, like adjustable awnings and an on-demand water heater. On a more universal scale, he used the structure of the building as finished materials: exposed steel joists, 2x6s in floor using as exposed ceiling below, unpainted walls (sheetrock mud mixed with sand) and on the outside, there is exposed brick and steel.

In this video, Cohen gives us a tour of his office, home, wife’s art studio and backyard courtyard. “I tried to incorporate the things I learned over the years into this project. It’s not particularly exotic, not a lot of fancy controls and it’s not overkill.”