Tropical Hideaway

New Build
The Bahamas
Core & Shell
Project Architect
Blue Sky Architects
a division of OLSON LEWIS + Architects
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The client objective was to create a vacation sanctuary which allowed for family and friends to spend time together, living simply and connecting with the natural beauty of the locale. The ultimate design includes a huge corrugated aluminum bridge culvert pipe –repurposed as the main living area- the openings of which allow ocean views on both sides, and over which runs a public dirt road leading to the end of the island. The concealed structure is landscaped on either side of the road. Outlaying sleeping structures, as well as a hidden underground garage, are built on the east facing side, with a pool and outdoor bar-b-q and cooking facilities on the west.

Social / Environmental Impact

Designers sought to create a structure that blended in rather than distract, and that did not adversely affect the pristine nature of the remote surrounding environment.

Design Challenges

The ferrying of goods and services is expensive, time consuming and culminates in a long drive down a dirt road to get to the remote site. Power is sporadic at best on the island; therefore, power needs were required to be self-sustaining for reliability. Destructive tropical cyclones are common in the Caribbean during the late summer hurricane season, and consequently, building codes are rigorous. The resourceful team included LEED architects who designed a structure that is simple to construct on site with local materials, off the grid & energy efficient, taking advantage of the natural conditions to incorporate into the design of the home, and is a safe haven in the event of adverse weather conditions. The open design of the common living area allows for cross ventilation and leads to the large great room maintaining a constant temperature, with the angled flanking walls creating a venturi effect to accelerate breezes through the space. The mass of soil on the sides and above maintains a constant temperature unaffected by solar heat gain. On cool days, the east and west facing accordion-style doors – which allow for ocean views on both sides – are closed to maintain the temperature. There is no need for heating or air-conditioning, dramatically reducing energy needs. The residence as a whole conforms to the High-Velocity Hurricane Zone requirements of the Florida Building Code.

Technological / Material Innovations

The main structure of the home, constructed of Corrugated Steel Pipe (CSP) mainly used for tunnel and bridge design, was repurposed to be the central “great room”. The outlying buildings (which housing the laundry and mechanical rooms on the first floor) are roofed with solar hot-water photovoltaic panels that provide all energy needs for the home. The panels create a ventilated double roof, shading the rooftop and minimizing solar heat gain. These flanking bedrooms, conceived as sleeping porches, are open to the weather and are equipped with insect screens, and hurricane screens & shutters. Appliances are highly rated EnergyStar efficient and lights are LED. The draw on the entire lighting system is equal to one 250-watt light bulb, and the home is effectively Net Zero Energy efficient.