After both growing up in California, Mica and Laureen lived together in many other places throughout their busy careers. Their hearts have always been on the West Coast, though, and they longed to return one day. They eventually found a small piece of property in the coastal enclave of Carmel-by-the Sea on the Monterey Peninsula, and they hired me as architect and Rob Nicely of Carmel Building & Design as builder for a new house that will one day be their permanent home. The collaboration yielded a new type of house for this area, one that appropriately breaks free of the local vernacular while also meeting the country’s most aggressive performance benchmarks.
This Passive House is a first for Rob, for me, and for the city of Carmel. Working on this project has confirmed for Rob and me the importance of sustainable, high-performance design and building. For the city and for those who now get to experience this home, I hope the house evokes a realization that design and performance can be held to the same very high standard and that beautiful, exceptionally low-energy homes are within our collective reach.
A fear of Passive House
One of the initial challenges with our project was providing Mica and Laureen with the house that they wanted while also convincing Carmel’s strict planning commission that the project would complement the existing city fabric. When we first sent the project to the commission, we were so excited about the idea of building Carmel’s first Passive House that we included a Passive House brochure. Unfortunately, that decision had the opposite effect of what we hoped. Instead of getting people excited about our project, it scared them into thinking that we were going to build a box with a wall of south-facing glass and…