One of my favorite pieces of music is Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. It is also known as the “Pastorale Symphony,” and most people who hear it understand immediately why it has that name. Beethoven loved to walk out in the countryside, and he wrote the Pastorale to express, in music, the emotions he felt in his outdoor experiences. Like nearly all of Beethoven’s music, it is highly sophisticated, and yet, it conveys a sense of natural ease and charming rustic life that is unusual for his work. Its movements are highly evocative of a country setting. An open meadow surrounded by woodland is brought to mind clearly by themes representing nightingales, quails, and cuckoos. But its soft-spoken comfort is turned to drama, as the composer portrays musically the intensity of both a storm, followed by the gratitude a person caught in the storm feels at deliverance from danger.
We at Green Energy Times often see pictures of the homes built by Geobarns, builders who like to share images of their creations. The buildings are a little hard to describe adequately using the usual vocabulary of building, so I found myself having to leave that language to make a comparison: A Geobarns home is rather like Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony, realized in solid form. Each home is evocative of simple, rustic life, and yet they are all highly sophisticated. They look in some way old-fashioned, and yet they have 21st century efficiency. Geobarns homes have unique style and construction – each is a palace built in a homey form.
Most look a bit like very beautiful barns, but the Modern Farm House is true to a name that honestly represents it. Nevertheless, it is much like other Geobarns homes, because it looks as natural on the land where it is built as the trees, rocks, and streams of the countryside.
The construction involves some proprietary elements that were developed by George Abetti. No plywood is use for siding. Because the framing is done set on a diagonal instead of vertical, it has the inherent strength of a triangle. The structure is unusually strong and rigid, so it does not need plywood to stiffen it. The strength of the design also makes it possible to have soaring expanses of interior space, somehow giving the impression of a building that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
The Modern Farm House design was coordinated by Geobarns project manager Ryan Hereth, who cooperated closely with the clients. The people who work at Geobarns have highly diverse backgrounds, and Hereth is no exception. His background is in fine arts, with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University.
It has a minimalist design, which is adequate for its owners’ present needs, with room for possible expansion. It has ten-foot windows facing southwest, with a view of Camel’s Hump and the Winooski River. Though the Modern Farm House has a feeling of simplicity, it was clearly laid out for comfort and esthetic values.
The building’s orientation was planned taking into account a possible solar array in the future. That is not a concession to environmentalism, however. Right from the start of the design process, Efficiency Vermont’s residential program principles were incorporated into the design. This included everything from windows to vapor barriers.
The first floor is heated by a Weil McClain Gv90+3 boiler, which provides radiant heat in four zones. It is set up for optimal efficiency, with intelligent controls. It also supplies heat for upstairs baseboard heaters, but there is a separate system for the second floor. The bedrooms on that floor have Mitsubishi air-source heat pumps, which supply both heat and air conditioning quite efficiently.
The lighting is done with LEDs with motion detectors. There are also built-in home stereos, local area networks, and Wifi. Interestingly, the combined phantom load for all this is less than ten watts.
The electronics is controlled by a Samsung Smart Things system. The house has ZigBee smart switches and uses a Sensibo system for the heating. The level of control is truly impressive. The condition of everything from the garage door and the water pump to Nest cameras and the coffee maker is known to the system. Heating is done centrally but can be adjusted by room occupants. If there is a malfunction or unusual condition, appropriate action is taken, and an alarm is raised. If no one is home, the alarm is sent out by a text to the appropriate cell phones.
The Modern Farm House can perhaps be described architecturally after all. It is a traditional house of the future. Still, to me it is a symphony.
The Geobarns website is https://geobarns.com.