Following the sun: Design of Studio 804’s new project lets the sun chart the course

photo by: Mike Yoder

This house at 519 Indiana is the latest Studio 804 project built by graduate students seeking the Master of Architecture degree at the University of Kansas. The two-story, three bedroom home with roof mounted solar panels, a modern aesthetic and high-end materials.

University of Kansas architecture program Studio 804’s latest project — a modular-looking two-story home with sassafras wood siding and large windows — was built for the sun in more than one way.

The most obvious indicator is on the roof, which is covered by an array of 16 solar panels. The sun also factored into the design of the house, 519 Indiana St., wherein the master bedroom’s wide windows and adjoining patio face due east.

“We kind of laid out the spaces on this floor to have your daily routine follow the sun,” said KU architecture student Ryan Bayerle. “So as soon as you wake up in the morning, you have the east light coming in here.”

Another set of windows facing south brings light into the living space during the day, and then the west-facing kitchen and back deck face the sunset in the evenings. What appear to be metal, exterior mounted blinds on the south windows — called louvers — are angled to provide more sunlight in the winter and block the majority of light in the summer.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The back side of the home, facing west, has a large patio deck off the living and kitchen area that provides natural light.

Studio 804, the capstone class led by KU distinguished professor Dan Rockhill, recently completed the 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom house and is ready to host a community open house Saturday. Rockhill, who has led Studio 804 since its inception 27 years ago, said 28 graduate-level architecture students helped complete the project.

The house is in the historic Pinkney Neighborhood and was built on a lot that Rockhill said had long been vacant but recently went up for sale.

“We saw this site and were immediately attracted to the location,” Rockhill said. “Of course finding a site that is just blocks away from downtown is perfect for us.”

There were some challenges, though, which Rockill and the students — who take only the Studio 804 class their final semester and work on the house about 60 hours a week — had to contend with. Those included aspects of the lot itself and the availability of materials.

The lot is already relatively narrow in its own right, but in addition to that the houses on the adjacent lots were built before the current setbacks in city code were established. Rockhill said one house actually has some overhang into the lot, via its roof, and the other house is only 2.5 feet away from the property line.

Bayerle said to give the main areas of the house an open feeling despite the close quarters, the main living areas, consisting of the living room, kitchen, dining room and master bedroom, are all on the second floor. The second floor is 6 feet wider than the first floor — 24 feet across versus 18 feet across — and bookended by the curtain windows and east and west patios.

“Because the houses are so close on each side, it kind of naturally had the design push the living spaces to the second floor, which allows for a larger space, more expansive views and more light to get in,” Bayerle said.

The slope of the lot, which slants downward from front to back, was another element the project took into account. Studio 804 student Rachel Johnston said the design of the house tries to complement the slope, giving the back patio an elevated feeling among the trees. Johnston said on the steepest part of the backyard, a rain garden has been planted, with native grasses, plants and milkweed for monarch butterflies, with storm water drainage from the roof funneled that way. A low-maintenance succulent garden is planted on top of the garage’s flat roof.

“Another big part of this project is all of the site elements that we brought to it,” Johnston said. “We have this green roof that has sedums planted in it.”

Like other Studio 804 projects, the Indiana Street house is built with environmental sustainability in mind. Rockhill said in addition to the solar panels, the house has a car charging station in the garage, energy efficient mechanical systems, and is built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Standards. Some elements are literally green, including the garage-top garden and the new grass sprouting through the driveway pavers.

Consideration was also given to building materials due to global supply chain issues. Studio 804 student Kendall Belcher said they usually have a connection to get certain types of engineered lumber, but didn’t want to rely on that because of the supply-chain issues. He said they did have a donation of steel, which is what led to the house having 24 steel support columns, adding a visual element but also a degree of complication.

“Dan was telling us that as far as our construction order, we had one of the more complicated processes,” said Belcher, noting that instead of just tilting up the walls once the slab was poured, the students had to get all 24 columns the same height.

Studio 804 will hold a community open house for the project — the house has already sold — on Saturday. The public can drop in to tour the house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The first-floor features finished concrete floors that follow up maple stairs to the second level. The lower lever features two bedrooms, a full bathroom, laundry room and storage room.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This view faces west over the open-concept kitchen, living and dining area and the large window and access to the second floor deck.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This view over the open-concept kitchen, living and dining area shows the unique sliding doors that separates the main bedroom and bath from the rest of the upstairs living area.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The second-floor back deck of the home faces west.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The main bedroom is on the east side of the home and also has a large deck.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Maple cabinets are featured in the kitchen and maple flooring is used throughout the second level.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This multiple-image panorama shows the large window to the back deck at far left, and the open-concept kitchen, living and dining area in foreground. In the background is a hallway to the main bedroom and bathroom with large sliding privacy doors on both entrances to bath and bedroom. Both the kitchen cabinets and the floor is maple.


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