NJIT Assistant Professor Richard Garber will receive next week a Project of the Year Award from Jersey City for the PREtty Fab House, a one-family sustainable home in the Greenville section of Jersey City. Garber and his wife, Nicole Robertson, of GRO Architects in New York City, designed the house.
The award will be presented at the Third Annual Green Awards ceremony on May 27, 2010. Earlier this year, the PREtty Fab House received an award from the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), of which both Garber and Robertson are members.
Designing the 1600-square-foot, pre-fabricated, super-sustainable concrete, single-family house was not easy. “We were asked to set it on a 22-foot-wide by 54-foot-deep, undersized lot, a vacant, derelict piece of land, overcome with weeds,” said Garber. The budget was small and the client wanted the home to resemble none other on a block of undistinguishable, two-story, once wood-frame, now aluminum-sided, structures. “It’s always a challenge when you come in with plans for a house that looks like nothing else on the street,” he added.
Luckily, Jeff Wenger and Claire Davis in the Jersey City Planning Department immediately saw the benefit of using the house as a prototype to unravel the problems of empty lots in single family neighborhoods, which exist throughout this city and others. Councilwoman Viola Richardson was also asked to pass muster on the visual role of this newcomer in the neighborhood. Happily, she jumped on board, too.
The upshot was that after almost three years of hard work, the homeowner moved into a new and notable, architect-rendered home with a far more generous footprint—17 feet by 40 feet—than anyone ever imagined could be accomplished. To the delight of all, construction costs and design work came in exactly where hoped—around $250,000.
A modular green roof—used for heat dissipation and to slow the drainage of water—sits over a portion of the structure. Another segment of the roof has been optimized for solar collection and sports a 260-square-foot photo-voltaic array, which cost $7500 out-of-pocket after state incentives and rebates. A battery was installed that allows additional energy produced to be stored. Garber estimates that his client will start paying back energy costs in five and a half years.
Garber and Robertson worked with a pre-cast concrete fabricator in southern New Jersey to design and form the 18 unique and high-performance panels that make up the exterior of the house. Through the coordination of digital files, the panels precisely fit together, and were craned into place over a period of three days. Additionally, a cedar rain screen at the front and rear softens the look of the exposed concrete panels.
Inside, the multi-story design includes two bedrooms, an open kitchen, living and dining areas; as well as a mezzanine which both accesses the green roof and serves as the rehearsal space for Carpenter, a musician who plays the recorder.