A Dynamic Austin Home That is Gentle on the Land

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Houses like this don’t come around everyday. When I stumbled on this project I knew I had to share it with you because it not only looks fabulous, but it was also thoughtfully designed to be gentle on the land and minimize its impact.

The Edgeland House in Austin, Texas was designed and built by Bercy Chen Studio LP design + construction. You can already see there's something special about it, but there’s more to this house than meets the eye... and there’s a lot to see.

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Edgeland House sits on a rehabilitated brownfield, which means that the land had been previously used for industrial or commercial purposes and was potentially contaminated and/or polluted by whatever was there before. Building on a brownfield can be a lot more complicated as the land has to be regenerated, and that can sometimes be a lengthy process as chemicals and other contaminants are removed and the soil's health restored. 

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The house itself sits 7' under, partially buried to keep cool in summer and retain heat in winter. It creates an interesting effect as you walk down into the earth to enter the house. The concept is a modern take on a traditional pit house, which is exactly like it sounds: a house partially buried in the ground to take advantage of the earth's thermal mass.

The earth's temperature is more stable than air, so partially burying a home avoids dramatic temperature shifts, leading to more efficient heating and cooling, and reduced energy consumption. To maximum energy efficiency, the Edgeland House also incorporates hydronic heating (the use of liquid to transfer heat as opposed to air) and a green roof.

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Edgeland House is divided into two pavilions - one for living and one for sleeping - inviting daily interaction with the landscape. The two green roofs meet the ground at the sides and slope up toward the center, effectually creating a slot canyon between the two structures that leads to a to-die-for dark swimming pool with an infinity edge. The unique shape of the building and the large amount of glass make for some tantalizing shadows as the light shifts throughout the day.

The interior gives you a real sense of shelter - almost like being in a really beautiful shallow cave. There’s a feeling of security when your back is to this solid mound of earth and stone and you are sheltered by a huge overhanging roof with your face toward all the glass in the center. It's a feeling of being inside the landscape - a part of it - rather than just looking out onto it.

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Everything about this project has been carefully considered. Every angle, column, and finish has a purpose. The neutral color scheme and clean lines focus your attention out, while the angles of the roofs take your eye toward the natural beauty of the site.

This house proves that land is never dead, that innovation can work in conjunction with traditional concepts, and that sustainability and land health make a project beautiful. Well done Bercy Chen Studio!

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“Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center collaborated to re-introduce over 40 native species of plants and wildflowers to the Edgeland House green roof and site, serving to help protect the local ecosystem.”

“Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center collaborated to re-introduce over 40 native species of plants and wildflowers to the Edgeland House green roof and site, serving to help protect the local ecosystem.”

Gotta love that Airstream guest trailer - it has to be one of the coolest guest quarters I've seen!

Gotta love that Airstream guest trailer - it has to be one of the coolest guest quarters I've seen!

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Design by Bercy Chen Studio LP design + construction, images used with permission.