This version of our Chesapeake Life House was built to serve as a caretaker's cottage, and is situated on a farm on Maryland's eastern shore. To see more of our work on this property please click here. Photo: Chesapeake Aerial Imaging/Michael Finn


Follow this link to see a modern version of this design - Modern Foursquare

Chesapeake Life House

The Chesapeake Life House is a series of houses designed specifically for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

SIZE: The floor plans range from 2000 to 4000 square feet.

SITE ORIENTATION: The house designs have great flexibility so that the living spaces can easily be modified for view, solar, and wind orientation, and to take the greatest advantage of natural topography and existing vegetation.

FOUR SQUARE DESIGN INSPIRATION: The Chesapeake Life House is inspired by the American Foursquare of the early 20th Century. This design is a multi-story home with a square footprint.

TRADITIONAL HOME DESIGN: The interior arrangement of rooms is as natural and traditional as the way the home sits in the landscape. The rooms have the classic proportions that can adjust to the various and changing needs of family life. The Chesapeake Life House is designed to last for many generations. The most sustainable feature of any home is the longevity of use. The design of the home must have the flexibility to accommodate a history of demands.

ENERGY CONSERVATION IS DIRECTLY RELATED TO FLOOR PLAN CONFIGURATION: The square footprint provides an excellent ratio of floor area to exterior wall and roof area.  The exterior wall and roof areas of a home are the parts of the house that lose heat in the winter and gain heat in the summer.  As we minimize the exterior wall, we reduce the energy required for heating and cooling. A 2500 square foot home with an L shaped floor plan has 25% more exterior wall area than a 2500 square foot home with a square floor plan. A 2500 square foot house that is one story has twice the roof area than a 2500 square foot house that is two stories. Using these simple floor plan configuration concepts reduces energy and material consumption. The daily energy operation costs of the house are reduced by the low ratio of exterior wall to interior space. It turns out that a small house footprint is a small carbon footprint.

CHESAPEAKE BAY WATERSHED: The deteriorating health of the Chesapeake Bay waters is directly related to the removal of woodland areas in the watershed. Agricultural uses, roads, yards, and building roofs all destroy the woodland areas. These fast runoff surfaces allow the immediate introduction of pollutants into the waters. The Chesapeake Life House features planted roofs that hold and filter rain water. The lot landscaping design encourages the restoration of woodlands, and the creation of indigenous wildlife habitat. The small footprint of the house and the minimal amount of hard surfaces on the lot help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

CONNECTION TO THE LANDSCAPE: Each primary room of the Chesapeake Life House has windows on two sides of each room. This allows for natural ventilation and illumination, and a generous connection to the natural landscape.

ACCESSORY SPACES: The plan of the house allows for the easy addition of porches, terraces, work spaces, and garages.

BASEMENT SPACE: The Chesapeake Bay watershed has a variety of soil conditions, but the temperate climate consistently requires that the foundation construction be about four feet below grade. To maximize the value of the foundation, the Chesapeake Life House places the first floor approximately four feet above the ground. This allows a fully livable basement with ample windows. The basement excavation is balanced with the volume of soil used to create terraces around the house, so the transportation of soil to and off site is reduced. Most importantly, a fully livable basement area is created at very little cost, no additional roof area is needed, and very little additional exterior wall area is required. The basement space concept allows the Chesapeake Life House to be built on a flat, gently sloping, or steep site.

SUSTAINABLE FEATURES: The house easily integrates many low carbon features: solar pre hot water system, photovoltaic panels, geothermal heating/cooling, super insulation, and/or organic construction materials. These and more may be included as budget and time allow.