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There has been a trend toward empty nesters and retirees moving from the suburbs back to the urban amenities and proximities the suburbs do not offer.  This house is on a north facing corner lot in a historic neighborhood a short walk from a grocery store, grade school, a community center and the cultural vibrancy of downtown Lawrence, Kansas.

Vacant lots near downtown are expensive but this site was more affordable because it is surrounded by marginal properties. It also had once been a gas station and the old gas tanks were still in the ground and required removal.  This triggered a string of EPA requirements to develop the brownfield site but fit perfectly within Studio 804’s mission.

The house is a modern 3 bed, 2.5 bath 2,000 sf house that features an air tight, highly insulated envelope, efficient light fixtures and appliances as well as a high performance mechanical system that incorporates an energy recovery ventilator as well as mini splits. These design characteristics in combination with a 6kw PV array on the roof targets net zero energy use over a calendar year.

The gable form runs the length of the narrow corner lot and opens away from the traffic of 13th street while promoting passive solar gain and daylighting through large high performance triple paned windows along its south elevation.  The standing seam roof, the half round gutters and the minimal trim detailing at the openings are all done to emphasize the visually rich texture of the Alaskan yellow cedar shingles siding and to maximize the impact of the universal building form and its minimal composition.

The plan consists of a large, open living area that is anchored by a sleek kitchen designed for serious cooking as well as entertainment.  The ceiling extends all the way to the peak of the gable and the 18” deep walls open to a bioswale that runs the length of the south side of the house to capture storm water and supports a variety of native plants.  The rest of the house is composed of smaller bedrooms and flexible use spaces as well as the upstairs master bedroom suite that includes a balcony-like office with a view into the living area.

This house uses minimal energy to operate, minimal resources to maintain, uses materials that required minimal resources to harvest and it offers the opportunity to be part of a long standing neighborhood and its amenities.


Technical Description

With a very few exceptions all of this work is built by the students. From the moment a Studio 804 class gathers in August the work is hands-on.  Even the design phase includes working on mock ups.  We do everything ourselves; the students are on site every day working on the excavation, pouring concrete, framing walls, welding steel, laying masonry, installing roofing, folding flashings, and setting windows and doors. We run plumbing lines and set fixtures, and we even do work on the mechanical systems and as electricians.   In short, there is little about building the students won’t have a chance to experience during a Studio 804 project.




  • LEED Platinum Certified
  • Passive House Institute Certified
  • The house is exceptionally air tight and captures all the heat produced by daily activities such as cooking and showering. It filters it and reuses it to heat the house. The building also needs much less cool air during the summer to keep the spaces comfortable as it acts like a thermos and does not allow the cool air to escape.
  • The house is insulated to nearly three times the code minimum.
  • The house uses high efficiency LED light fixtures, mechanical systems and plumbing fixtures to minimize the use of resources.
  • High performance triple paned windows are used to meet the passive house standards.
  • The building’s orientation and the locations of the openings promote cross ventilation for cooling.
  • Storm water is captured in a bioswale that runs the length of the south side of the house to capture storm water and supports a variety of native plants.
  • All of the materials, paints, flooring, sealants and adhesives used inside the addition emit low or no volatile organic compounds.
  • The framing is done with engineered lumber which is manufactured from fast growing underutilized lumber.
  • The standing seam room supports the photovoltaic panels that allow the building to require net zero energy over a calendar year.
  • Net metering is used to credit the owners when the building is generating more energy than it is consuming.
  • High performance German manufactured triple paned windows are used to meet the passive house standards.
  • A brush on air/moisture/vapor barrier is used to achieve the envelope performance required for passive house certification.
  • Promotes carbon sequestration by using sustainably harvested wood for both the structure and the finishes throughout.



Studio 804 Speculative Project


Architecture 17 Students


Project Start:2015
Year of Completion:2015