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A home that's built for keeps page 3
Large concrete home was major engineering project.

 Mosaic and ceramic tile add beauty to the showers in two bathrooms.
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Date published: 11/30/2012


The runoff is filtered and collected in a 3,000-gallon underground tank. The water can be accessed from blue-topped spigots and used for irrigation or car-washing. Hose bibs attached to the house are hooked into the home's well-water system.


The house was designed and built for single-story living on the main level. It is flat throughout, even across the breezeway and into the garage. The master bathroom, with a granite vanity, has a roll-in shower that's a work of art with the combination ceramic and mosaic tile. There is also a secondary bedroom with its own bathroom on this level.

On the other side of the house is the large gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and commercial-grade stainless steel appliances.

Phelps explained that special care was taken with the large range hood because of its ability to draw large amounts of air out of the tightly built home. A few tweaks will allow the hood to do its job as intended without creating a vacuum.

This side of the house contains the laundry room, mud room, and access to the two-car garage.

The center area of the home with its soaring ceiling will be the dining and main living areas. Huge windows fill the area with light. The crown molding, part of the handsome dark-finished trim, will hide indirect rope LED lighting.

Flanking the main living area at the front are two home offices, one for him and one for her. Flanking the area at the rear are window-walled sun rooms, one of which provides access to a concrete deck with a wire railing that doesn't obstruct the view.

A wide staircase leads to the lower level and a spacious area for recreation. There are two bedrooms down here as well, a second master suite and a secondary bedroom with its own bathroom.

Altogether the house has four bedrooms, four full bathrooms and a half-bath.

Beneath the breezeway is a utility room with the hot water system and space set aside for the possible solar panel-heated water system down the road.

Continuing through that room leads to a workshop that's beneath the garage. Phelps said the workshop ceiling, with the two-car garage above it, is one of several places where the home is "overbuilt" to support both the weight of cars and the concrete.

Only the home's roof system and interior walls are wood framed.

Richard Amrhine: 540/374-5406
Email: ramrhine@freelancestar.com

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Here's a list of the subcontractors and suppliers involved in the project:

Concrete footers and flatwork: Brandonbilt Foundations

ICF provider: Creative Building Products

Concrete floor system: Metwood

Metal roof: Roof Works of Virginia

Brickwork: Huston Construction

Stucco: Lyon's Stone & Stucco

Deck railing and stairs: Virginia Railing and Gate

Windows: Pella of Richmond

HVAC: Country Heating & Cooling

Plumbing: Southern Spotsylvania Plumbing

Electrical: ROC Electric

Rain collection system: Tidewater Irrigation and Septic

Plumbing and lighting fixtures: Ferguson

Tile floors: Penn-Mar

Tile showers: RC Lee Carpet One

Custom cabinets: Artistic Designs

Stained trim and painting: IPD Homes

Architect Dana Herlong of Herlong Associates Inc. said the home designed for Preston and Lynn Simms is an example of how a house is supposed to be built.

"This is how you work the house and the site as one, using practical methods and good principles," she said.

The fact that both the Simmses are engineers made them a pleasure to work with, she said, despite the "learning curve" involved.

Details were covered down to exactly which trees were taken down. (The largest oaks were set aside, and one will become the Simmses' dining room table.)

When passive solar design is in play, it all begins with the siting, she said. In this case, the back of the house has a southern exposure to best use the winter sun.

"We considered the topography, and looked for the highest point," she said. That turned out to be near the center of the parcel, which also served the Simmses' desire for privacy.

The topography also allowed for the walk-out basement at the rear to provide easy outdoor access.

The plans went on to incorporate other aspects the Simmses wanted, such as universal design, front-to-back sight lines, energy efficiency with high-mass construction and passive solar, and as little maintenance as possible.

Herlong referred to the low-slung design as prairie style, which is generally associated with Frank Lloyd Wright and the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1900s.

"We settled on a modular design that would give them the function they needed," she said, and the ICF construction was an ideal choice. The overhangs were calculated to provide summertime shading, and clerestory windows were used to provide continuous light.

Herlong referred to the "monitor roof," which recalls a time when people wanted to keep a close eye on their surroundings.

"When a complex project like this gets done with everyone working together, it's very rewarding," she said.

--Richard Amrhine