Tower House, Upstate NY, United States

This house is a stairway to the treetops. Each of the first three floors has one bedroom and bath to keep the footprint to a minimum and avoid disturbing the wooded site. The top floor containing the living spaces, spreads out from the tower like the surrounding forest canopy, providing views of the lake and mountains in the distance. An outdoor roof terrace extends the living space above the treetops, offering a stunning panorama view. Glass-enclosed stairs highlight the procession from forest floor to treetop aerie. Dark green, back-painted glass exterior camouflages the house by reflecting the neighboring woods. Mini lights dotting the stairs mimic fireflies sparkling in the woods as day turns to dark.

As a vacation home, the Tower House is used during few weekends in the winter and most weekends in the summer. The goal was to develop a sustainable, energy efficient solution with minimal operating costs and maintenance. Stacked bedrooms take advantage of light and views with floor to ceiling glass. To optimize energy savings for heating and cooling in this part-time residence, a two part sustainable strategy was employed to reduce the heating footprint of the house in the winter and avoid the need for air conditioning in the summer.

By compressing and stacking the wet zones of the house into an insulated central core, much of the house can be “turned off” in the winter. When not in use, only 700 square feet of the house is heated. By closing the building down to the insulated core, energy use is reduced 49%. In the summertime, cool air is drawn in and through the house using the stack effect. The stairwell creates a solar chimney by exhausting hot air out the top as it rises, drawing in cooler air through the house from the north.

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