This is the first of a new series of articles from Robert McLaughlin, founder of House Virescent and co-founder of KCmodern, who will report on green building efforts in Greensburg, Kansas and Kansas City.

Studio 804, the graduate level design-build studio from the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning, followed up its successful Modular 1,2,3,4 houses and the 547 Art Center in Greensburg, Kansas with the 3716 Springfield House.  It's another great looking house seeking not only to be LEED Platinum, but to be off the grid as well.  Also known as the Buffalo House, the Kansas City, Kansas project attempts "a holistic approach to sustainability" and uses active solar and wind technologies to power itself.

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This project breaks a four-year tradition for Studio 804 of building modular buildings in a warehouse near the University of Kansas and then shipping the units to the site.  This new site-built project is a two-level home with a basement and an integrally attached one car garage.  It uses sustainable features such as a vertical axis wind turbine, roof-mounted photovoltaic solar panels, geothermal heat pump, framing wood recycled from an ammunition plant, and a underground rainwater reclamation system.

Visually one of the most noticeable features is the building's cumaru wood rain-screen cladding.  This cladding has become a signature element on Studio 804 projects, and it allows water to pass behind the wood skin of the building.  A similar rain-screen detail is used over the metal roof of the building to give the roof and wall skin a uniform appearance.  The rain-screen is then flush with the photovoltaic solar panels on the roof.  Integral gutters and downspouts are hidden behind the rain-screen and carry rainwater to underground tanks.


The home also features passive solar heating through large expanses of south facing glass.  These windows are protected from the summer sun with fixed sun louvers made of steel and cumaru wood.  Low south facing operable windows and north facing roof-top skylight vents create a thermal chimney effect.

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Epoxy coated gyp-crete floors provide interior thermal mass for the passive heating and cooling, while composite recycled paper countertops wrap the kitchen cabinets.


A three-level steel frame with glass "shingles" encloses the staircase and provides daylighting and spatial separation between the front rooms and the baths of the house.  Nighttime lighting is handled with a low-voltage cable system.


At some sensitive fenestration, the rain-screen carries over the glass for solar protection.  This large west facing window has a steel armature to hold the rain-screen.


The vertical axis wind turbine, a Windspire by Mariah Power, will help supply power to the building when it becomes operational.


Photo credits: Robert McLaughlin.