Doctors Lake Flying Cottage 1

I’ve been experimenting with ideas for a house on Doctors Lake:

Design a cottage to be as close to the water as possible, constructed in accordance with Velocity Zone building code standards (coastal construction) and designed to anticipate flooding. In this way, the design derives the maximum benefits of being close to water (breezes, water as a thermal sink, sparkling light and fresh air).

What this means is that the primary living space is above the ground floor, making the house float, or fly

The first version of this experiment is shown below:

The footprint is about 20′x40′, keeping the environmental impact of the structure lower. At two habitable floors, it is 1,600 SF living area with carport below. But the compact design achieves an orientation towards the outdoors that Doctors Lake is known for.

The ground floor is service only, and is meant to be “frangible” as intended by code for coastal construction. Of course, local zoning requirements would not allow a structure to be built so close to the water, but that is not the point of this exercise. The point is to explore what a new housing type could do to the community around Doctors Lake, or all up and down the St. Johns River. One of the drivers here was my attendance of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge for Jacksonville. One of the key points they highlighted was the inherent natural beauty of the St. Johns River and the imperative that Jacksonvillians prioritize usages along the river. I came away with a desire to improve what people are building along the river and associated inlets.

What if everyone collected their roof’s runoff and use it to drip irrigate their gardens? Could we restore hydrological balance in our local ecosystem? This cottage has a butterfly roof with rainwater collection and storage. A butterfly roof is also well positioned for PV systems (Photovoltaic) which means on-site energy generation.

A reduced footprint (800SF footprint) is also ecologically responsible because more of your building site can then allow groundwater to percolate down to the aquifer. Leave more of that yard for your kids and dog to play in. Or set up a bocce court!

What if people did’t have to run the AC as much because their elevated houses naturally ventilate with pleasant river and lake breezes? Could we reduce our local power consumption? Could we sell our excess power to other locales at profit?

A quick longitudinal section through the house:

The second floor (above ground) contains the living and entertaining areas one would expect on the waterfront. There is also a north facing home-office area on the second floor. Views to the water dominate the areas clad in glass, while the westerly solar exposures are mitigated with exterior metal screening systems. On the east side, the screening system allows climbing vines, like English Ivy, to grow on it but remain low maintenance. The third floor has bedrooms and bathrooms, which amount to the private areas of a house.

Structurally, the house is a rigid steel frame (with moment connections) and concrete floor slabs on composite metal deck wrapped around site-poured concrete walls, which form the shear resistance required for the high winds we can occasionally get during storms. Because the design is essentially a 20′x40′ box, efficiencies gained in planning allow higher end materials to be used on the exterior, keeping long term maintenance costs lower than the average house. The tradeoff is that most residential contractors couldn’t build or service this. A hybrid residential/commercial contractor would be best suited to a project like this, having experience and labor in uncommon residential materials/systems such as steel and  exterior metal systems.

And a view from the water:

In the coming weeks, or actually, indefinitely, I will continue to refine this idea (experiment) and post it here for your edification. Again, this is a experiment and hopefully our readers will find it stimulating their preferences and assumptions about what “Waterfront” or “Riverfront” or “Lakefront” living should be.

It will be easy enough to add a separate garage or workshop to this design (reconfigure larger planning pieces), but future iterations will focus on criticizing and improving the architecture itself.

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