2023 AIA Housing Awards: The Rambler by GO’C

The Rambler

Architect: GO’C 

Owner: Lydia Ramsey

Location: Indianola, Washington 

Category: One-  and Two-Family Custom Residences

Project site: Previously developed

Building program type: Residential – single-family detached

Surrounded by the immense trees of Indianola on Washington’s Puget Sound, The Rambler is a home shaped by intimate familial connections. The concept for the home was inspired by the client, who grew up in the village-like setting and was gifted the site by her grandparents. Her stories and personal history merged to form the home’s narrative and reinforced the design team’s responsibility to honor the community and the site itself. 

Much of the owner’s life is centered on music and family, so from the outset, it was clear that the home would need to be an instrument that bolsters the musical activities in her life, which span writing and playing music, offering lessons, and sharing music at social gatherings. The everyday functions of a home also needed to be integrated into its small footprint. The team thoughtfully zoned all of the site’s areas, maximizing space for an abundant vegetable garden, a future shop building, and opportunities to gather around the fire pit. 

The overarching design concept emerged from a solid rectangular volume running east to west across the site like a typical one-story rambler. Sections of the volume have been carved away to create gathering spaces and open axial views, and additional perforations draw in light and provide natural ventilation while still maintaining privacy. The home examines the relationship of ground-to-roof planes as it stretches horizontally, emphasizing its connection with earth. The singular vertical element that disrupts its overall horizontal nature is a site-cast fireplace and chimney that marks the heart of the living space where family gathers and music is written and played. 

Strong connections between the interior and exterior spaces are evident throughout, especially where brick screen walls extend into the surrounding landscape and create semi-enclosed rooms. The landscape itself is invited up to the perimeter walls and, in cases like the entry garden, directly into the center of the home. Low-maintenance materials that age gracefully are critical components of the project. Douglas firs that made way for the home were milled and dried during construction and were used for the roof plane’s finish lid, open shelves in the kitchen, and a custom coffee table. Cedar milled on-site was used to create the main entry door, benches, and a privacy fence to the east. 

Like the owner, the lead builder grew up near the site and maintains connections that stretch back generations. The team identified more than 30 local collaborators to make The Rambler a truly local effort. Last summer, the client hosted a celebration to recognize the more than 80 individuals that helped realize her home. 

“This is a beautifully designed house with a small budget,” noted the jury. “It demonstrates that good design does not have to rely on a significant cost per square foot but rather using all resources available. In this case, the resources were community members and local artists.” – Jury comment



Project attributes

Year of substantial project completion: 2022

Gross conditioned floor area: 1700 sq. ft.

Project team

Architecture & Interiors: GO’C

Structural Engineer: SSF Engineers 

Civil Engineer: J Welch Engineering 

Envelope Consultant: RDH Building Science

General Contractor: Sparrow Woodworks

Photography: Kevin Scott

Jury

Catherine Baker, FAIA, Chair, Nowhere Collaborative, Chicago

John DeForest, AIA, DeForest Architects, Seattle

Brian Lane, FAIA, Koning Eizenberg, Santa Monica, Calif.

Amit Price Patel, AIA, DIALOG, Vancouver, British Columbia

Michael D. Robinson, AIA, Robi4 Architecture & Planning, San Diego


AIA Framework for Design Excellence

The AIA Framework for Design Excellence represents the defining principles of good design in the 21st century. Comprised of 10 principles and accompanied by searching questions, the Framework seeks to inform progress toward a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient, and healthy built environment.

Framework for Design Excellence / The Rambler

Design for Integration

Was there a design charrette?  Yes

Design for Ecosystems

Site area that supported vegetation (landscape or green roof) pre-development: 90%

Site area that supports vegetation post-development:  84%

Site area covered by native plants supporting native or migratory species and pollinators: 75%

Strategies used to promote Design for Ecosystems: Biodiversity, Dark skies, Soil conservation, Habitat conservation, flora/fauna

Design for Water

Is potable water used for irrigation?  Yes

Is potable water used for cooling? No

Is grey/blackwater reused on-site? No

Is rainwater collected on-site? Yes

Stormwater managed on-site:  100% 

Design for Energy

2030 Commitment baseline EUI:  39 kBtu/sf/yr

Predicted net EUI including on-site renewables:  26 kBtu/sf/yr

Reduction from the benchmark:  33%

Is the project all-electric?  Yes 

Design for Well-being

Level of air filters installed:  MERV 12-14

Was a “chemicals of concern” list used to inform material selection?  Yes

Do greater than 90% of occupied spaces have a direct view to the outdoors? Yes

Design for Resources

Were embodied carbon emissions estimated for this project? No

Design for Change

Estimated service life:  100 years 

Ability to survive without utility power: Passive survivability

Design for Discovery

Has a post-occupancy evaluation been conducted? Yes

Building performance transparency steps taken:

  • Present the design, outcomes, and/or lessons learned to the office, 
  • Present the design, outcomes, and/or lessons learned to the profession, 
  • Present the design, outcomes, and/or lessons learned to the public​

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