The amazing transformation of a 1950’s bungalow into an ultra-modern, energy-efficient residence is truly remarkable. But the project was years in the making and includes a strong European influence—just ask the owners/architects, Gail Whitney Karn and her husband, Robert Karn. She is Director of Technical Sales for RHEINZINK America and Robert runs Consilium, an urban design and architecture consulting practice.
Before tackling the project, the two architects spent 10 years in Germany where they had gone to “recharge their batteries“ after leaving firms in the United States. The couple raised their three sons in Germany while working as architectural consultants to firms involved in the reconstruction of the former East Germany.
During their years in Germany, the Karns were deeply influenced by the European style of architecture that centers on a highly energy-efficient, eco-friendly design with great longevity. “They build for three generations over there,” Whitney Karn said. “We began to think about designing our own small yet spacious, ecologically-constructed and energy-efficient home to express our position on architecture.”
The Karns returned to the Massachusetts in 2001 and quickly purchased a 1,500 sq. ft. bungalow in Sudbury. The structure was located on a sloping, narrow, two-acre property that stretched into conservation land. “The first time I saw the house, I knew the interesting topography would be to our benefit,” according to Robert Karn.
The renovation centered around a 1,450 sq. ft. vertical addition that required removal of the roof and construction of a new level that would be accessed from a pedestrian bridge at street level. “The design is essentially an ‘upside-down house’ with the living room, kitchen, study and dining room on the street-level second floor and three bedrooms on the ground floor,” said Whitney Karn.
Given Whitney Karn’s position with RHEINZINK America, it was a foregone conclusion that the façade cladding for the 2,700 sq. ft. residence would be the titanium zinc material. “The RHEINZINK will last 200 years,” she said, “so it obviously met our sustainability and longevity goals.”
Approximately 4,000 sq. ft. of RHEINZINK PrePATINA blue-grey material was profiled as Horizontal Reveal Panels and utilized to clad the front and both sides of the house. The 1.0mm panels have a finished face of 7½“ plus a ½“ reveal for an 8“ on-center module. The back side of the house has glass on the upper floor and offers great views into the garden and woods.
The Horizontal Reveal Panels were roll-formed by RHEINZINK distributor MetalTech—USA, located in Peachtree City, GA. “MetalTech is a great partner,” said Whitney Karn. “With the modern, machined look of the house, I wanted to have the precision of roll-formed panels.”
Installation of the RHEINZINK panels was done by an experienced subcontractor craftsman who was assisted by Robert Karn who has had construction experience. “The Reveal Panels are attached to hat channels which is a relatively simple process,“ Whitney Karn said. “The installation really went like clockwork.” The craftsman, Fred Muldoon of Oak Roofing in Woburn, MA, installed all of the flashing and trim which had also been formed by MetalTech—USA.
The RHEINZINK was also used on the interior in a limited application as cladding around the fireplace.
The energy-efficiency of the passive solar design is rather remarkable. “Our phone bills are higher than our utilities,” said Whitney Karn. According to Robert Karn, “The energy strategy was holistic. We utilized the natural aspects of the site; maximized the solar heat gain in the winter via double pane low E glazing facing south; and minimized the summer heat gain via the abundant deciduous trees and white rubber membrane roof. The success of this approach hinged on the efficiency of the building envelope which was insulated with R 40 walls and R 50 roof. Insulation was provided by closed cell foam insulation as well as blown-in cellulose in the walls.“
Design and construction of the ultra-modern, eco-friendly renovated house was clearly a labor of love for the entire Karn family. The transformation of the original bungalow is truly remarkable.
Photographs 1-4 show the Karn residence after its renovation. Photo 5 shows the home before.