“Every good design solution solves at least two problems.” —Michael Klement, architect
Marti and Tom Burbeck think about things like the shrinking Arctic ice cap, the global pandemic that is plastic pollution, and who might inhabit their home 200 years from now. So it is not surprising that the couple was drawn to the Living Building Challenge (LBC) when Michael Klement, principal of Architectural Resource, introduced them to the building certification program. It was an arduous road they chose to travel but after 3-1/2 years in design, 18 months in construction, and a year of performance auditing, their home is the second of only two LBC-certified private residences in the world.
Set on a pastoral swath of land in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Burh Becc at Beacon Springs Farm comprises 30 acres, a 4970-sq.-ft. Tuscan farmhouse−style main house, and a 2440-sq.-ft. barn/workshop/garage. It is a zero-waste, net energy−positive building whose operation contributes to the health of both its occupants and the natural surroundings.
Once an oak-hickory savanna, the site was in poor condition when Tom and Marti came to it. The land had been farmed for decades and was severely compromised. “The property has a lot of rolling hills, and at the edges of the old farm fields the grades were typically 2 ft. lower than the hedge rows around it, suggesting there had been a lot of erosion with the type of agricultural practices being used,” explains landscape architect Shannan Gibb-Randall of InSite Design Studio. “The fields had typical old-field meadow species—some natives but a lot of weedy invasive species too. The hedge rows were also choked with woody invasives like buckthorn and honeysuckle.” In short, the site met the LBC condition that projects can only be built on greyfields or brownfields.
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