Seaside Levitation

The Atlantic coastline, salt marshes and bird-watching from a Passive House on stilts.

Faced with FEMA regulations for Atlantic coastal flooding, this Passive House home is to be elevated 1.5 stories above grade. That puts its single, main living floor right in the tree tops. Designed as a vacation, weekend and retirement spot, this modern rambler takes cues from mid-century modern furniture.

Sitting atop a tapered-leg platform made from site-poured concrete, it hovers amidst bird habitat, and offers views extending south from the Atlantic shorelines of Massachusetts to its inland salt marshes on the north.

The Ground Level

The property remains largely untouched as the undercarriage elevates the bulk of construction. An entry tower made from site-poured exposed concrete holds solid stairs and an elevator. On the main level, a sheltered wooden bridge provides access from the stair tower to the house, as well as shelter from the elements and a south-facing outdoor space.

The Main Level

On the inside, this home features an open and welcoming public center section with kitchen, living and dining spaces. Extensive window seats provide views of the salt marsh; transom windows to the east and west map morning and evening sun angles onto the walls of the great room, which extends up 1.5 stories. The dining area connects to a screen porch, which leads to another platform for 360-degree bird watching.

Both east and west ends feature individual 2-bedroom suites.

The home is designed to meet the stringent Passive House building energy standard and features German-made triple-pane Passive House windows, airtight and super-insulated construction, as well as balanced heat-recovery ventilation. Heating and cooling are provided by an air-to-air heat pump system. All equipment and lifelines are moved up in the air to provided storm safety.

Key Features

  • Elevated, FEMA-compliant platform construction
  • Efficient and compact floor plan layout
  • Compact building shape
  • Cost-effective, green construction methods and materials
  • Super-insulated, airtight building envelope
  • Triple-pane high performance windows
  • Air-to-air heat pump for heating and cooling
  • Balanced heat-recovery ventilation
  • PV-system and vehicle charging station
  • LED lighting throughout
  • Sustainable stormwater and landscaping practices

 Project Details

  • Design: Tim Delhey Eian & Stephan Tanner
  • Construction: Howland Company
  • Project: 2013 – 2014