LEED Renovation on Kiawah Island Underway

Framing underway for Kiawah Island cottage renovation designed for LEED certification. The complete renovation of an Ocean Woods Cottage on Kiawah Island is underway.  We've designed the renovation, which will have a distinctly contemporary feel, in accordance with US Green Building Council's LEED standards, and are hoping for LEED Gold Certification. The layout and feel of the living spaces will be completely different from another Ocean Woods project that we completed last year, owing to different opportunities that the sites presented and the distinct tastes of the clients. It will be an interesting test of the design flexibility possible in these simple and virtually identical units. We are working with the same contractor, River Creek Construction, on this one as we did on the last.

Dreaming about No Rain

Living spaces covered with tarp after majority of roof demotion has been completed. In recent weeks when we have asked our three year old son what, if anything, he could recall dreaming about the previous night, he has been likely to answer, "I dreamed of no rain." We've no idea in what this line of dreaming is rooted, but Sands Construction, Tyler A. Smyth Architect LLC, and the client that we are collaborating with all hope that his dreams come true, if only for the next week or so.  Finished Australian Cypress flooring, known to be temperamental when exposed to moisture, and other interior finishes and insulation would greatly benefit from some dry weather.

View from the entry foyer into the living spaces, where the roof once was.

We have been designing the renovation and addition to this Kiawah Island residence for some time now, and the work is underway.  Sands Construction, serving as contractor, first completed the interior demolition and has now removed the existing roof from the areas that will receive the additional living spaces above.  All of the structural material has been on site and waiting for fair weather, which is upon us.  We're all excited to really kick off the project.

Dreaming of no rain,


Retrofitting existing piers found to be hollow with structural grout; piers will be added where necessary to appropriately shore up the foundation.

Sandy Barton discusses concrete work beneath a new garage stair with the concrete finishing crew.


Digging in on Cannon Street

68 Cannon Street from the rear, with new basement and foundation in progress. A few weeks ago, I was asked to lunch by the tenant that recently moved into the extra apartment in our Hampton Park Terrace house.  He's an equities trader and does some real estate development on the side. Great guy, and very smart.

We met at Five Loaves at Cannon and Coming Streets, then walked down to see a couple of properties that he owns. One Charleston single house, just to the east, was perfectly standard stuff for Cannonborough: a typical college rental house. Back to the west we walked to see his other property.  I was sort of walking with my head down or looking to the front as we chatted.  Then he stopped and said "This is it."  I looked to the left, and said "This one?"  No, over there.

68 Cannon Street, front porch area.

I looked to the right and across the street.  "Whoa! Holy sh*t!"

A relatively large wood framed house was up on timber cribbing over a huge excavation.  Within the hole, the form work for the cast-in-place concrete walls of a basement was in place, ready to be poured shortly thereafter.  I had never seen anything like this done in Charleston, and was naturally very curious about it.

Historic fabric meets modern technology in a match made by the market.

It is an interesting story that takes place at the confluence of historic preservation ordinances, zoning regulations, flood zone restrictions, and an expanding real estate market.

In brief, the builder/developers purchased a couple of adjacent properties: 68 and 70 Cannon Street, which collectively had 3 historic structures. Some combination of the Charleston Board of Architectural Review and Board of Zoning Appeals denied applications to add onto the residences conventionally for greater rental capacity that the owners desired. But it just so happened that the flood zone boundary ("A-Zone" to "X-Zone") crossed right at the front of the properties. The front of 68 Cannon sat about 2' into the A-Zone, with the balance in the more favorable X-Zone.  If they could move the structure back a couple of feet, they would no longer be under strict flood regulations.

Being out of flood restrictions that would prevent a basement meant that they would be able to create a basement if they wished, and were able to achieve their expanded rental capacity that way. The need to completely rebuild the crumbling foundations anyway meant that the cost difference to go with the basement was decreased.  Cost analyses yielded a return on investment that made a great deal of sense.  So a basement they dug.

A deep drainage system ties into two pumps with the aim of keeping the site from flooding.

What about the practical considerations of flooding in the basement of a Charleston residence? Wary and prepared for this, the developers engineered, and then expanded, a deep sump system to drain the site of rising water in perpetuity.  An extremely wet summer was not enough to overwhelm their system, so they feel confident in the ability for the drainage system to keep up.

Very interesting stuff, and a definite harbinger of things to come for the Charleston real estate market.  We may not have a lot more basements built, but the idea that it makes sense to do it should make you stop and think about where the market is heading.

Avondale Residence Kitchen

Kitchen in Avondale Residence, cabinetry by K&K Custom Cabinets Robert Paige of K&K Custom Cabinets commissioned some photography at the cottage that we designed in Charleston's Avondale neighborhood.  He sent some photos along earlier this week, and we were happy with the results.  Robert did a great job with the full-inset cabinetry that was designed for this kitchen.

Avondale kitchen; the windows were designed to register with other windows at the top and to have the countertop run in continuously at the sill. Photo: Wm. Quarles

The kitchen was design to be the center of the house as an acknowledgement of of this space as the heart of the modern home. It has direct visual access to the living room, which engages the kitchen through a bar with seating for five. We kept the countertop at one level, which I think contributes a great deal to the visual fluidity of the space.

The opposite side of kitchen features three windows for access to views of the gardens and pool in the back yard. The windows were designed and positioned to register with other windows at the top and to have the countertop run in continuously at the sill.  The framers initially out-thought themselves in raising the windows up by three inches, only to later need to re-frame the openings and move them back down to the intended height.  This is the type of thing that we can pick up in performing construction observation services as the architect.

An appliance garage to the right of the refrigerator comes down to the countertop. Photo: Wm. Quarles

36" Wolf range and Sharp microwave drawer provide the cooking capacity for the kitchen. Photo: Wm. Quarles

New Year, Olde Park

Take that, water. You've met your resistive barrier. The screened porch fireplace will support the roof and lend privacy to the space.

My new year's resolutions include making a better effort to keep Michelle's sanity intact, and my first shot across the bow was taking my son out of the house for a site visit to Mt. Pleasant.  Mom had ham hocks and collards to cook and the boy was overexcited and under foot. So off we went to Olde Park on the first morning of 2013.

The framers are beginning to wrap things up at the new Olde Park residence.  The roof framing over the conditioned spaces has been completed, leaving the front porch and the screened porch roofs to be built.  The aluminum clad Eagle windows (recently renamed the "E Series" from Andersen) have been delivered and installation has just begun.  The builder is going to install the windows before completing this porch roof framing so that the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC rough ins can begin a bit sooner.

Windows in third floor playroom have been installed.

Building envelope specialist Scott Flanders consulted on some of the material selections for the residence, including the selection of the weather resistive barrier material.  The specification is Super Jumbo-Tex 60 Minute building paper.  This products carries a 10 year warranty and is flexible n its installation.  I much prefer these felt paper type weather resistive barriers to the Tyvek type, believing that they hold up better over time and perform better with moisture, both in fluid and vapor form.

Insert mechanical system here; this is why open web trusses make superior houses.

Moving toward the rough-ins of the mechanical and electrical systems is a nice step forward.  We will be doing a couple of things to ensure that the long term health and performance of the residence will be as sound as possible.  Principally, we will be keeping all of the ductwork within the conditioned envelope of the residence.  The second floor open-web truss system will contain the ductwork supplying the first floor and second floor spaces. The very cold air being pushed through the supply ducts will be adjacent to the relatively cool and dry conditioned air within the residence, as opposed to the warmer, moisture-laden air of the attic or crawlspace.  With this, the propensity for condensation to form over the surface of the air ducts will be diminished.  It should go without saying that the less uncontrolled water that you have within the residence, the better.

Master Bedroom with vaulted ceiling.

Looking through kitchen toward breakfast bay, which will be loaded with natural light

The Skyline Roofing crew will be back soon to begin installing the standing seam copper material

View out from the hyphen stair element connecting the main house to the master suite and garage.

Olde Park residence moving along

Front elevation developing with the addition of the deep rafter-supported overhangs I spent a quick lunch break one day last week at the Olde Park construction site.  Now that the overhangs are being added, the intended form of the residence is really coming together.  The clear finished cypress soffit material and fir rafter tails are really beautiful.

Olde Park residence, right side elevation.

The principal form of this residence is an efficient and simple to construct two story box.  This form terminates in a hipped roof with deep overhangs, reminiscent of Louisiana plantation architecture. The box has other simple volumes appended to it: a screened porch anchored by a massive fireplace to the left, one level bays flanking the entry porch in the front, breakfast bay in the rear, and second master bath bay to the right.  The carriage house to the rear is connected with a "hyphen" containing the back stair.

Rear elevation with breakfast room off of the kitchen and fireplace to right ready to support the screened porch roof structure.

Keeping the volumes simple and efficient will allow the owners to devote a larger proportion of their resources toward nicer finishes, like the fir and cypress overhangs. We are excited to get dried in so that the fun stuff can really begin.

Cypress roof deck supported by structural rafter tails in fir.

The neighborhood


Renovation and Addition in Mt. Pleasant Well Underway

We were retained a few months ago to undertake the design on a complete renovation and addition in one of Mt. Pleasant's older neighborhoods.

Our clients found the residence standing on Barbara Street in a neighborhood close to the Ben Sawyer Causeway, near the former location of Mama Brown's BBQ.  It was by appearances a simple structure: a rectangular form 8' ceilings, a low-sloped trussed roof and a tiny front porch.  A poorly built addition in the rear was screened and contained a (very nasty) bathroom.  It had little to recommend it except its location close to Sullivan's Island on a nice corner lot.

Among the first determinations made for the renovation were that the screened porch addition would have to go and that the ceiling ht in the existing residence should be raised.  It makes little sense to undergo a complete renovation of a house while retaining a chief liability: the constricting eight foot ceilings.  The resourceful developer/contractors worked with Structural engineer Matt Wilks and myself on a plan to raise the trussed roof two feet.  And the screened porch, along with its tiny front porch cousin, were out.

Eliminating the aesthetic liability of the 8 foot ceilings in the structure created a set of challenges that would need to be overcome.  Chiefly, to avoid the need to completely re-frame the exterior walls to 10 feet, we would have a knee wall framed above the existing walls.  This creates a pinned connection--a point of natural weakness--that would need to be addressed, particularly in Charleston County where the two pronged spear of hurricanes and potential earthquakes constantly threatens structural stability.

We devised a bracket system which would address this situation and serve as a key aesthetic role on the residence's exterior. Structural brackets fabricated from standard dimensional lumber will connect the ends of the roof trusses, extended to enhance the overhang and provide a more ideal angle, to the bottom of the knee wall in order to bracing the entire assembly.  The brackets will be contributors to the craftsman flavor of the architecture, with the attachment point serving as a natural division between the cedar shingle siding below and a clapboard band above.

The existing footprint of 1,200 sf was considered to be too small for the new vision for the house.  The lot contained plenty of room to the rear to allow for a significant addition, however, so we determined best to add on to the back of the house.  The 600 sf addition contains the new master suite, a laundry and mud room space, and a den, as well as a sizable covered porch addressing the side yard.

The addition was built upon a concrete slab, which will be stained and finished for a contemporary touch to the architecture. Dropping the addition down will also enhance the sense of variety in the living spaces and a feeling of separation for the master suite, tucked away in the back of the lot and way from the adjacent streets.

We're hopeful that our client, the developer of this speculative construction project, will find the right buyer when it is completed. The interest in the project has already been very high with many interested buyers approaching the builders. I am hopeful that it will turn out well for everyone.





Blocking out the scene in Olde Park

The boy and I ran over to Mt. Pleasant this morning to spend time in his favorite place: the job site!  Yes, give him a job site, any job site, and he will be massively entertained for hours.  Sand, rocks, interesting stairs and piles of lumber to climb up, on and over.  For a two year old, life does not get better than this.

Luckily, in this case I was able to get in some quality project review time with the contractor while his kids kept an idea on the boy.  The block mason ripped through the foundation work and generally did a nice job, though one of the walls was discovered to be splayed out of square such that another partition course had to be added.  With the other side of the block being concealed within the concrete decks, the builder felt that we would be able to make it though acceptably without any significant tear out.