This is undeniably one of the most unique properties in North Texas, designed by and renovated by progressive Dutch architect named Matthijs Melchiors. Melchiors took a 1500 square foot earth home, partially built into a hillside, added square footage and all his green sensibilities to maximize energy efficiency. The result is a stunning contemporary home with some of the lowest utility bills in North Texas.
The home, 456 Remuda Drive in Fort Worth, has 12 thick lower level concrete exterior walls. They not only provide a superior thermal envelope, but double as a storm shelter in bad weather. We know how vital that is in North Texas.
The home is exactly 3000 square feet, that’s 1500 up and 1500 down. There are three bedrooms and three and a half baths. The home was originally built in 1981 on 1.25 acres as an earth home underground. Melchiors and his family bought the house in 2007 and went about doing what he does best: green design. They lived in it the entire time during the construction and remodelling.
“Most of what I do centers around green design,” says the architect. “It took me a long time to experiment. The downstairs was 1500 square feet underground so we doubled the size of the house. We live upstairs during the day, and all the bedrooms are located downstairs in the earth home. It took a lot of planning, but the house is very light and bright. The all concrete construction downstairs basically warms the upstairs. The utilities are $100 a month for electricity.”
$100 a month. But it could be less. The house, says Melchiors, is pre-wired for solar panels, which are still costly, so Melchiors is waiting. Once they are installed, the home will be totally energy independent.
On the second floor, a 12 x 56 panoramic window spans the entire length of the home and captures a stunning view with nearly 20 miles of visibility on a clear day. (Remember, Fort Worth is hilly on the west side.) The home is constructed of aluminum commercial grade frames with insulated glass for maximum efficiency. The lower level of the home features maple hardwood floors, cork flooring, and Austin shell stone accent walls salvaged from the Amon Carter Museum in downtown Fort Worth, donated by the Carter family. Melchiors had met the Carter family, explained what he was doing, and they offered the stone immediately.
The ceiling lighting is integrated within suspended maple wood panels. The second floor ceiling features a dramatic perforated panel system that is visually stunning as well as acoustically absorptive. The home is also topped by an inverted V- shape metal roof to catch rain water run-off and provide years of low maintenance.
Dutch-born Matthijs Melchiors grew up in the Netherlands until age 16. He went to the University of Houston, lived in China for awhile where he worked as an architect, settled in Fort Worth because of family. His diverse background probably helps fuel his love of home engineering and conservation experimentation, he says.
The inverted V- shaped roof does catch roof/rain water, but Melchiors also devised an ingenious method to spray water on the roof during the day to cool down the house. His automatic system uses very little water, but successfully extracts heat from the roof.
Melchiors’ thermal engineering is how he keeps those utilities so low. He also built the home with a double skin facade to store and transfer heat: sunlight hits the wall, naturally heats it and the heat is transferred upstairs. Air circulates throughout the wall cavity. As the skin begins to warm up, heat rises.
“Think of the external skin as a substitute air pocket,” says Melchiors. “Between that and cork, warm air rises and naturally draws in cooler air from the bottom– hot air rises. This is another way to cool the skin of the house.”
The white metal roof reflects sunlight, plus of course there is that natural misting system. Melchiors has his own architectural firm. Once he sells this home, which shouldn’t take long with David Griffin’s Brandon Stewart at the helm , I think he’s going to be deluged with requests to replicate this home. I can see a whole community of them. I mean, asking is $755,000 and that is NOT a misprint!
As usual, you heard it here first.