Bercy Chen completes high-tech update of traditional pit house

© Bercy Chen

Back in 2010 we showed Austin Architect Bercy Chen's proposal for a modern version of the traditional pit house built by ancient Pueblo and Cherokee Indians. It was such a logical design for the times, relying on the thermal mass of the earth (and the green roof on top) to smooth out the wide swings in temperature between day and night, summer and winter. It's now completed.

© Bercy Chen

The architect writes:

Edgeland Residence is located on a rehabilitated brownfield site and is a modern re‐interpretation of one of the oldest housing typologies in North America, the Native American Pit House. The Pit House, typically sunken, takes advantage of the earth’s mass to maintain thermal comfort throughout the year. Like this timeless dwelling, Edgeland Residence’s relationship to the landscape both in terms of approach as well as building performance involves an insulative green roof and a 7‐foot excavation‐ gaining benefits from the earth’s mass to help it stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

© Bercy Chen

The house has a bit more glass than a traditional pit house might have, so it gets a boost from an "integrated hydronic HVAC system" that looks from the 2010 drawings like a ground source heat pump.

© Bercy Chen

Both visually and functionally, Edgeland Residence touches on architecture as site‐specific installation art and as an extension of the landscape. The program is broken up into two separate pavilions, for the living and sleeping quarters, and requires direct contact with the outside elements to pass from one to the other. This project sets new standards for sustainability while providing great aesthetic qualities through its small footprint and integrated mechanical features.

© Bercy Chen

Pit houses were once built around the world from Germany to Japan, from Wyoming to Lake Titicaca. It's comeback time. More photos at Bercy Chen and Designboom.

© Bercy Chen

Tags: Green Building | Texas

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