Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
Printer-friendly version Share:  Share this page on FacebookShare this page on TwitterShare this page by emailShare this page with other services

COMFORT ZONE | Smart Designs for Pleasure and Planet

A Magnetic House

"Opening up our window walls makes our living room feel like an outdoor courtyard," Anne Mooney says.

In Emigration Canyon, a Salt Lake City neighborhood of faux colonials and mini-mountain lodges, the house of architects Anne Mooney and John Sparano is a rebel. It not only looks different, with its boxy form and harlequin-patterned steel cladding, but it acts different, too: Utah's first LEED Silver-certified residence is a model of green design and ecofriendly living.

Mooney and Sparano, along with builder Benchmark Modern, integrated environmentally sensitive features throughout the project. Dual-flush toilets save 48 gallons of water per day, and radiant-heat concrete floors are powered by a tiny, high-efficiency boiler. A rainwater-collection system, hidden below the driveway, irrigates the native, drought-tolerant landscaping. The exterior steel cladding has a high percentage of recycled content--and the bonus that you can attach items like house numbers and holiday wreaths to it with magnets.

"When we designed the house, it was illegal to collect rainwater," John Sparano says. "We installed a 500-gallon cistern anyway and crossed our fingers every time the building inspector came. Now it's legal to collect up to 2,500 gallons for use on-site."

Mooney, Sparano, and their two children use barely any heating, cooling, and lighting energy during the day. Ten-foot-high, double-glazed glass doors keep the kitchen, dining room, and living room bright. They accordion back to let the canyon views, scents, and breezes into the house. Ample cross-ventilation provides natural air-conditioning. In rooms without windows, such as the pantry and guest bathroom, Mooney and Sparano installed tubular skylights, which channel daylight from the roof into otherwise dark spaces.

At 2,500 square feet, the house is easily one of the smallest in the canyon. In an effort to minimize excavation, maintain a compact footprint, and retain as many native oaks on the 1.25-acre site as possible, they designed and built it at the smallest size allowed by the local architecture review board. "At first, some neighbors had a hard time with it," Mooney says. Sparano adds, "People in the neighborhood have told us, 'We want big houses here.' The prevailing mentality is that houses should be big to retain real estate values. The premium is on quantity and scale, not on design and spatial quality. But we don't need a house larger than this. This is the perfect size. We wanted to show there's another way of building in the West."

ON THE WEB What's your idea of a green living or work space? Tell us at sierraclub.org/sierra/shelter.


Photos: Dustin Aksland (4)


Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2015 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.