Like many Unity clients, Bryant and Ruth came to Unity via Bensonwood. Back in the 1990’s they bought all of Tedd Benson’s books, visited Bensonwood’s former shop and offices, and dreamed of one day retiring in a timber frame home. In the early 2000’s, they found the property on which they knew they would one day build. It was an hour’s drive west of their home in busy Fairfax, Virginia: 60 acres of secluded, rolling forest with westerly views across the Blue Ridge Mountains.
From Bensonwood to Unity
Ten years later when the time came to realize their dream, they visited Bensonwood again, and even had a plan drawn up for a timber frame home on their sloping site, but various regulatory and financing hurdles made building the home impractical. Unity had recently been launched, and Bryant and Ruth were drawn to the company’s focus on energy efficiency. The Tradd model caught Ruth’s eye. It had the two stories they were looking for, as well as exposed timbers on the interior, and the design could be configured for a primary bedroom suite on the first floor, and a walkout basement. They were sold.
If we were working with Ruth and Bryant today, we would term their design “Semi-Custom,” due to non-standard elements such as the walkout basement, a gas fireplace, additional timbers and the living room bumpout. But five years ago when the home was being designed, Unity had a single path for the preconstruction phase, and Ruth and Bryant followed it.
Ruth took the lead on the interior decorating, and although she found it challenging to select finishes and fixtures from a distance, the house turned out beautifully. When the home was completed in 2015, Ruth and Bryant made the move from Fairfax County (population: over a million) to the smaller-sized Rappahannock County (population: 7,000). And they haven’t looked back.
They recently had a photovoltaic power system installed in the corner of the field to the west of their home. Bryant said that their system was as large as the power company would allow: 60 panels, and 18 kW. He’s expecting that if the system doesn’t get them all the way to Net Zero, they’ll certainly be close.
Five Years Later
What would they have done differently, knowing what they know now, five years after moving into the home? Not much. Bryant mentioned that they might have opted for a ducted zone to heat and cool the upstairs bedrooms, so that there’s better temperature control when the doors to those bedrooms are closed. They would have paid more attention to interior sound deadening—the open loft area results in sound carrying from one floor to the other. And they would have added another linen closet or two—an issue they fixed by purchasing linen cabinets that matched their kitchen cabinets.
Aside from these items, Ruth and Bryant love the house. They’re particularly glad that they invested in two sets of panels for their enclosed porch: Bryant installs the screen panels every Easter, and replaces them with the glass panels at Thanksgiving, making the porch usable all year round. They like nothing more than to sit on the porch, on the deck, or in the west-facing living room, and watch golden sunsets over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Total Living Area: 2685 SF (without basement)
Porches: 225 SF
Exterior Decks: 300 SF
Bedroom suite addition
Wall Panels: R-36 OBPlus with cellulose
Roof Panels: R-49 roof panels with cellulose
Foundation Insulation: R-15 rigid foam
Windows: Marvin Integrity
Heating/Cooling: Mitsubishi air source heat pump with 4 wall units
Water Heater: On demand
Ventilation: Lifebreath heat recovery ventilator
PV System: 18.6 kW, with 60 panels
Bryant and Ruth
…and we love looking out at the golden sunsets and gazing up at the exposed timber beams