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The Low/Rise House – a Flexible, Low-Impact Counter Proposal to the Suburban McMansion?

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Dan Spiegel sees your McMansion and raises you the energy-efficient “Low/Rise House.” Dan’s parents, both professors at Stanford, were looking to economize their living situation and move into a rancher-style house that better suited their needs, without sacrificing luxury but without all the fuss and nonsense of a labyrinthine mansion.

Luckily for them, their son Dan is a founding partner of Spiegel Aihara Workshop, which, according to their profile, is a “trans-disciplinary firm operating at the nexus of architecture, landscape, and urban design.”

Regardless of his personal attachment to the project, the home Dan Spiegel built was to stand as an innovative beacon in the Silicon Valley cluster of sprawling mansions that Dan believes waste space, energy, and resources. The Low/Rise House is his counter-proposal to greater, more wasteful suburban development. “Given the great advances of technology emerging from Silicon Valley, architectural innovation surprisingly lags behind,” Spiegel says.

The Low/Rise House boasts a number of energy efficient techniques, including radiant floor heating and hidden solar panels that generate 90% of the home’s energy. Keeping in mind his parents’ desire for a one-story home, Spiegel designed the home as two low buildings that join in the middle. There is a three-story tower on one end of the house for guest use, and that part of the property can be shut off with an app to conserve utilities when not in use. Sliding glass panels let in plenty of natural light to help with lighting costs, and all of the doors and windows are made of low-E glass panels which are designed to emit low levels of radiant heat to warm the house—according to Spiegel, it’s so well insulated it doesn’t even need air conditioning. The kitchen uses only energy-efficient appliances and fixtures to save energy and money, appliances like an induction stove and low-flow faucets.

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The Low/Rise House by no means sacrifices comfort or looks to be a sustainable wonder. The rooms are beautiful and roomy with white oak flooring and Douglas fir ceilings, and the master bedroom has beautiful glass panels that open onto a spacious private deck. The outside living spaces were designed by Spiegel’s wife and partner Megumi Aihara and are garnished with native grasses and flowers, irrigated with a water-conserving drip-irrigation system.

In creating a home for his parents, Dan Spiegel said to Business Insider that the result “proposes a more responsive, flexible approach to the single family home.” With the wink of implication in the name, the Low/Rise house provides high-rise style and luxury in a low-profile, low-energy, low-maintenance home. It re-imagines suburban living by taking traditional California ranch-house style that is flexible enough for a single person, as areas of the house can be “shut down,” but allows enough space and utility to support anywhere up to ten people.

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Aesthetically pleasing as well as low-impact, the home is sensitive and reflective of nature and the neighborhood. Spiegel designed the house to be as low-maintenance as possible, with durable finishes like stone flooring and cedar-cladding designed to last 50 years or more. The fact that Spiegel’s parents inhabit the home will enable him to learn from the house, to see how the materials age, to see how it functions post-occupancy, and to improve upon future implementation of the building practices. “It’ll be an ongoing thing,” Spiegel says.  (Images – Bruce Damonte)

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