Selah House by Duvall Decker
Duvall Decker has designed the Selah House in Malvern, Pennsylvania. This 2,247 square foot dwelling is surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes that take the center stage and really, set the mood for the design.
Selah House, a small (2,247 SF) home for a soon-to-be-retired doctor, is designed with mature environmental strategies that, in its next life, will become part of a nature preserve. Great care was taken to locate the house in an existing clearing with a “light touch,” removing very few trees. Designed for a 100-year life, all decisions regarding design, material, and systems were optimized for an environmentally engaged home.
The program is simple – living, kitchen, bedroom, bath with two special spaces, a private garden, and a writer’s loft. The house is designed for inhabitants to be intimately connected to the cycles of the day, weather, seasons, and abundant local flora and fauna. Standing in the center of the warm maple paneled interior, you are only eight feet away from the courtyard to the north and the view through the trees and across the valley to the south. When the sliding glass doors are open in the main bedroom, the room becomes a sleeping screen porch in the forest. From the writer’s tower, it seems as if you can touch the moon and stars, brilliant in the black sky.
In designing the Selah House, the architects set the project in-between witness and the environment: the house is both the frame and foil for the interaction. The design is responsive in this relationship between a visitor and the full environment of the site. The siting, form, location of rooms, views, movement of the sun through seasons, the weather, and the wildlife are in a dynamic conversation to elevate awareness, surprise, and insight. Selah is designed with mature environmental strategies that will become part of a nature preserve in its next life. Great care was taken to locate the house in an existing clearing with a “light touch,” removing very few trees. Designed for long 100-year life, all decisions regarding design, material, and systems were optimized for an environmentally engaged home.
The house is durably built with regional natural materials. Material choices were all judged by their life cycle value to support the most durable and sustainable structure. The house is constructed with super-insulated walls and a high-performance air and vapor barrier skinned with long-lasting slate shingles. The windows are thermally broken, double-glazed portals that connect the interior with the exterior and harvest natural light. The southern overhang protects the interior from the summer sun but invites its warmth in the winter.
The house has a dual fuel, high efficiency split HVAC system, a solar water heat system with an instant backup, net-metered photovoltaic electric panels, and an electric car charger in the garage. The owner’s energy bills have ranged from $0-$12 per month. The owner currently splits his time between New York with his patients and the house on weekends. The design team, contractor, and family receive frequent photos of his discoveries and new friends on the mountain: hawks, deer, possums, fox, the rolling fog, and the colors and sounds of a living house and site.