Residential Design

Vol. 3, 2017

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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Page 64 of 83

Santa Fe, N.M., has the dual distinction of being the oldest state capital in the United States and the highest in elevation, at nearly 7,200 feet. Its physical beauty, nestled between vast mountainous state forests, and its history as a cultural and arts mecca make it a very desirable place to live or to visit. It's not, however, an easy place to build a house. Even beyond the city boundaries and its very strict style and construction requirements, severe height re- strictions limit what architects and builders can accomplish with exterior elevations. Architect Scott Specht, AIA, had somewhat of a reprieve with Sundial House because he and his clients chose a building site about five minutes out of town and out from under the harshest of city building restrictions. Still, Scott had to cap the height of this second home to 14 feet—from the average point. Given the to- pography of the 8-acre ridge-top site, that actually meant digging down and recessing the building into a series of courtyards. Scott practices in Austin, Texas, and New York, primarily, so he's dealt with conditions similar to Santa Fe's huge range of temperature and weather. From Texas, he understands ex- treme heat, which the city suffers during the summer. And he's coped with snow loads for houses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. However, Santa Fe's arid high-desert climate was a new challenge. Summer months can also produce heavy monsoon rains; therefore, houses still need fortification against moisture. Wild Weather Coping with wild swings of weather and the city's water and power constraints informed the design in many ways, as did the architect's professional commitment to sustainable design. The first major move was to keep house size under control. Ultimately, it came in at 2,500 square feet, accommodating the couple and their visiting children and grandchildren. The second move was to optimize construction methods to conserve energy. For ideas on that, Scott looked to local building traditions. "Climate and microclimates have to be considered," Scott explains, "and that's where looking to traditional construction methods is important. Thermal massing works really well to Sundial House SANTA FE, N.M. SPECHT ARCHITECTS VOL. 3, 2017 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGAZINE.COM 65

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