Nestled amidst the suburban neighbourhood of single-storey bungalows of Venice,California, the Solar Umbrella Residence is the result of extending a 650 square foot bungalow into a 1900 square foot residence equipped for responsible living in the 21st century. Architects Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa have applied sustainable design principles that characterise much of their work: active and passive solar design strategies to make the building 100% energy neutral, the use of recycled, renewable and high performance materials, studies of soil permeability, and containment of maintenance costs.
The particularly advantageous site location overlooking parallel roads meant that layout could be rearranged to make the building south facing. The previous main entrance has now become the back. This move allowed the architects to create a more gracious introduction to their residence and optimise exposure to energy-rich southern sunlight. In place of the former façade a new, two-storey volume has been built to house the entrance, living area, a new master suite and utility rooms. As distribution of the existing body has not been altered, the kitchen is now adjacent to the spacious, luminous living room whose sliding glazed French windows blur the distinction between inside and outdoors.
One space flows easily into another, a feature highlighted by the water that from the swimming pool reaches the entrance platform and then the master suite encompassing the bathroom and opening out onto the patio. The patio extends the bedroom area outdoor, creating an open yet protected space that is englobed in the building envelope, providing a front elevation with a distinctive character.
A bold display of solar panels wrapping around the south elevation and roof becomes the defining formal expression of the residence. Conceived as a solar canopy, these panels protect the body of the building from thermal heat gain by screening large portions of the structure from direct exposure to the intense southern California sun. This state-of-the-art solar skin absorbs and transforms a rich resource into usable energy providing 100% of the residence’s electricity, hot water and radiant heating requirements. Solar panels are not the only materials selected for both their performance and aesthetic value.
Acoustical panels made of layers of recycled newspaper have been used for interior finish of the walls, while OSB (oriented strand board), a structural grade building material composed of leftover wood chips, have here been sanded and sealed for building shelves and custom cabinets.