A Contemporary Dog Run Home
In the early days of his practice, Williams employed vintage design concepts enhanced with innovative concepts of for macro/micro-climate energy efficiency and new technology.
In Kemah, a small town on Galveston Bay, the prevailing winds blow from the southeast. From this house, however, the northwest offers the most scenic views. To capitalize on the wind’s natural cooling properties while providing the best views for his client from the inside and outdoor living spaces, Williams used a modified version of the old-fashioned dog run to funnel breezes to the main outdoor living area on the opposite side of the house. To further increase the use of the west-facing side of the house, and to enhance energy performance and comfort, most of the second floor provides valuable sun protection for the highly-desired view from the W and NW windows. This feature also provides weather protection for the outdoor area below. To avoid blocking the W and NW views by normal bedroom balcony railings, Williams custom designed the first cable railings in the Houston-Galveston area. The triangular balconies and the second floor of the house shield the first-floor windows from the intense afternoon sun. With this design, this home, on a due west facing site with its intense afternoon sun magnified by the sun’s reflection off the water, has only one small west facing window far underneath an overhang. All the main big windows face north and northwest where they don’t need any shading devices.
For low maintenance, Williams selected fiber reinforced stucco with minimal rot resistant wood trim (fiber cement trim was not available then as it is today) to withstand the high humidity, sun, and slightly salty breeze from nearby Galveston Bay. With vent skinned walls (a Williams energy-saving, comfort-enhancing innovation on an earlier project), and all shaded windows, utility bills are much lower than the neighbors’ rectangular houses, about one-third the energy consumption the neighbors have for their like-sized homes. The house survived Hurricane Alicia in 1983 with negliable damage and the client lived comfortably for days without electricity following the storm.
The client, who wanted an environmentally conscious home for outdoor living connected with his vintage 36 ft Pearson sailboat, got all of his wishes for his west facing site, plus having NW views from every room un-obscured by windows shades, unlike all of his neighbors who rely upon view blocking shades for their conventionally designed homes to keep their homes from overheating. Another bonus: every bedroom has its own private 2nd floor balcony with each having the prime NW view.