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The sustainable approach for Porch House considers the building as a sailboat operated by its occupants across the different weather seasons in Los Angeles, CA. A high performance envelope, strategic siting and careful massing create a responsive vessel for occupant comfort across most of the year. The process of designing the house included a range of performance simulations using research-grade software. Hour-by-hour thermal comfort and load analyses revealed patterns of performance, guiding the mechanical strategies and operational protocols. Sensitivity analyses for glass specification, wall and roof insulation determined the optimal envelope configuration for winter and summer performance.  Thermal autonomy to reduce use of energy is coupled with renewable energy generation by photovoltaic and solar hot water panels.  The house promises to be zero-net-energy and significantly reduces peak loads for all electric energy uses. Thermal comfort and energy performance simulations are based on current climate data, but also looked ahead to the effects of climate change.  Not only does the low-energy house reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the house is designed to adapt to increased frequency and impact of heat waves and extreme weather.


Johnston Marklee

Pacific Pallisades, CA

Occupied, 2013

Main entrance to the house.






Outdoor Dry Bulb Temperature: The weather data set was modified to include three extreme events: the record-setting but brief heat wave of 2010, a particularly hot period that occurred in  August, 2009 and a cold spell that occurred around New Years, 2011.

Thermal Comfort: Indoor Operative Temperature (Unconditioned) ::  The house was designed to be nearly thermally autonomous. Thermal mass keeps the interior from fluctuating as much as the outside temperatures.

sunpathSunPath diagram over fisheye image showing the hours of direct sun received on site throughout the year.

Sun shading study for proposed overhangs and operable shades.




HVAC System Heating and Cooling Loads: A hydronic radiant system serves as a back up during cooler winter months and warmer summer days. The rest of the time,  comfort will be achieved by the occupants opening and closing the house and deploying shades as needed.




Sensitivity analysis for insulation values in roof and walls and glass types: We parametrically modified the thickness of the insulation in each part of the envelope to identify the reasonable R value that would optimize the building performance.  We then compare the heating and cooling loads in each case in a graph, observing how both curves reach a point of diminishing returns where adding more insulation has minimal impact.



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