Meeting the challenge of a steep sloped site, architect and contractor Chris Price of Park City Design Build designed the ski country vacation house in Park City, Utah, so that a ski house became a Passive House; a creative variation on the German Passivhaus standard of energy-efficient housing. The home had to utilise at least 75% less energy than a home constructed to code—no small feat. But he succeeded, his two-year design adventure resulting in a miraculous structure known as the Tree Haus.
This concerted family project resulted in a family home that consisted of 3,463 square feet (322 square meters), four bedrooms, and 3½ bathrooms.
Price beamed the house into a hillside and called upon the earth’s natural heat capacity, which remains approximately 55 degrees, to maintain temperate conditions all year round.
The second challenge was constructing in accordance with Passive House standards. Price designed a tight envelope with the installation of tri-paned windows and doors and constructing 12-inch-thick double-stud walls that are thoroughly insulated. Sealing the penetrative areas maintains the home’s airtightness. An efficient Navien combi-boiler heats the house’s water and supplies radiant heat underneath floors. The house does not require any form of air conditioning.
Each of the house’s four levels rotates 20 degrees from the one below it to supply diverse views and adorn the façade, giving the illusion that the house is angling up the hill.
This modern-styled home seems one with the trees surrounding, as it boasts dark-stained red cedar lap siding that lends the boards a vertical orientation and diverse 4-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch pieces in a random pattern to simulate the natural rhythm of the trees. He also coordinated the overlapping on each floor from left to right to differentiate the levels.
And, to accommodate the heavy rate of snowfall in the region, Price engineered the roof to accommodate the snowfall, and to boast a waterproof membrane.
He situated the main living spaces between designated bedroom floors. The bottom garage boasts a coat closet and storage space. The second level features a mudroom, a laundry, a mechanical room, two bedrooms and a single bathroom. The third level features a living room, dining room, a flex space and a kitchen in a single space, along with as a powder room, a pantry and a boiler room. The top floor consists of dual bedroom suites, and the main master suite sports another bonus room that could double as a sitting room, media room, rec room, office or dressing area.
And talk about repurposing; Price currently is drying trees removed during construction in a natural, respectful manner so he can mill them into furniture for home projects in the future.
The home offers a generous open living space, through the windows of which people can enjoy bountiful views of the mountains and trees. The space forming the back left corner beyond the kitchen is a flexible space. Expansive white walls supply space for artwork, including a sizable painting. An area rug also adorns the living room.
The floors consist of engineered white oak. The home as a whole is heated by way of radiant floor heat. Lift-slide doors supply a sizable opening onto a deck. Structural steel ceiling beams distinguish the 20-degree rotation of the floor above it.
A 12-by-4½-foot kitchen island is the site of a major gathering place for family and friends, centrally located between two decks. The island comes wrapped in a black granite waterfall counter, and one side of the island bears the same stained red cedar siding found on the exterior. The island doubles as a lovely focal point in the house. Sharp red counter stools lend a nice touch to the island, bordered by doors that access a partially covered deck.
The top level’s 20-degree rotation supplies a nice cover above the deck.
Price actually built the appliances and cabinetry on one wall. To keep a clean veneer, he matched the cabinetry paint with the wall paint and selected minimalist hardware. And the kitchen boasts another beautiful painting, right over the sink.
The stacked stairwell doubles as a thermal chimney, with the bottom windows drawing in cool air, while hot air that elevates is emitted through windows placed at the staircase’s top. All of these stairwells, windows and doors unite to cool the home.
Price’s father, a skilled metalworker, crafted all the interior and exterior railings, which also boast a natural touch. The railings liken the steel stringers, beams and ebony metal light fixtures present in the house. The treads are comprised of Douglas fir.
The living room does indeed come alive with a congenial, arty mixture of midcentury modern furniture and textiles.
In the powder room, Price culled a countertop from hot rolled steel. All of the house’s lighting fixtures are LED; all of the plumbing fixtures are low flow in formation.
Two master suites adorn the top floor. One accesses a private deck and features an adjoining flex room. That presently serves as a dressing room, walkin closet and sitting room.
The master bathroom sports a brisk black-and-white look, an ornamental bathtub, a sizable shower stall and a separate water closet. The floor tile consists of natural slate, the counters quartz.
The Price family ultimately sold Tree Haus, responding to an unprecedented demand for energy-efficient—and beautiful—Passive ‘Hausing’ in their area.