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A Little House Grows Up, Goes Modern, Gets Off the Grid

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Photos by <a href="">Eric Rorer</a>
Photos by Eric Rorer

Look carefully at this modern home near Buena Vista Park and you can see the ghost of what it used to be: A much smaller, circa 1939 house crouched in the shadow of the elegant behemoths that populate the area. The before shots tell the story; the garage doors, the entry to the lower level, and the small front balcony were all existing—but now they are wearing new coverings and topped with a second story.

Architect Andy Rodgers designed the house, and he's getting ready to show it off this weekend (Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) during the 13th annual San Francisco Living: Home Tours (a tour of six homes presented by AIA San Francisco and the Center for Architecture + Design). It is Rodgers' second time at this particular rodeo, and this year his design story is dramatic.

He was hired to make this home (it weighed in at about 2,500 square feet) big enough for the family who was living there (a couple and their three daughters, ages 6, 11, and 14). By adding the second story, he increased the size to about 4,000 square feet; but in this case, size wasn't the only thing that mattered. These people wanted a fit for their values too. "They wanted to build it in a very energy conscious way," he says. "The goal was to get as close to net zero as possible." A net zero building uses only as much energy as it creates, thus the home is equipped with passive heating systems, triple-glass windows, and a photovoltaic array (solar power generating unit) on the roof. "We will find out if it's working this winter," Rodgers jokes. Given that Ewen Utting, the man who developed the first passive energy house in San Francisco, was the general contractor on the project, it's a safe bet their heating bill won't be an issue.

Besides a conservation mentality, there are other things that reflect the family values and desires. A kitchen is open to a small media room, making it possible for the entire tribe to be together after school and work. An office just off the kitchen can also be connected to the family action, but when the adults need some quiet (or want to hide a cluttered desk from guests), they can just slide a barn door over the space. Upstairs, a master suite and spa-like bathroom with a sleek wet area (a side-by-side shower and tub enclosed behind a large sheet of glass) make up a retreat for the adults.

People this concerned about energy consumption must be nature lovers, and Rodgers says that the corner windows on one side of the house are meant to embrace the outdoors. "They overlook the park, and our goal was to bring that environment inside the house," he says. Another dose of nature comes in through the narrow windows that make up the backsplash in the kitchen. The grand staircase that connects the levels and is topped by a five-by-seven-foot skylight acts as a light well, letting sunlight filter through from top to bottom.

During the interview, the architect mentions a few times that the home's creation was team effort. So, it's fitting that all the players—Rodgers, Utting, and the homeowners—will be present during the tour and ready to talk about the game plan.

· 2015 San Francisco Living: Home Tours [AIASF]
· Andy Rodgers Design Studio [Official Site]