Photo Credit:  John Cole Photography

Photo Credit:  John Cole Photography

CANAL HOUSE

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  Gardner Architects LLC.

The Intercoastal Waterway is a 3,000-mile inland waterway that runs along the east coast of the United States. It connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The waterway consists of many different kinds of waterfront conditions. In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on the Delmarva Peninsula, the Intercoastal Waterway connects the Delaware Bay at the mouth of the Delaware River and Rehoboth Bay through the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. This canal is edged by a rich tapestry of manmade developments and diverse natural environments.  Along with residential, commercial and agricultural developments as well as a waste water treatment plant, the canal also engages perennial wetlands, wooded areas, Cape Henlopen State Park and Gordon Pond Wildlife Area, a 900-acre salt water lagoon.  Located on the canal across from perennial wetlands, this project explores the ways in which a holistic approach to house and site can positively contribute to a waterfront community.  The design agenda called for a sensitive response to climate and site. The homeowner’s program included a sustainably-minded agenda, married with a “modern farmhouse” aesthetic.


Replacing an existing bungalow, the house is sited on the lot in order to maximize views to the canal and wetlands while also providing a variety of protected and shaded exterior spaces.  The form of the house is split by a glazed entry foyer, offering views through to the canal. This axis that organizes the houses toward the water, is reinforced by a continuous boardwalk from the street side of the house through and out over the water.  The project focuses on passive sustainable strategies in order to decrease energy demands and burden on the local utilities. By creating a highly insulated building envelope and employing a geothermal heat pump, energy costs are minimized. Operable windows and skylights, including in the open, gabled stairway, allow for natural ventilation and take advantage of the stack effect.  The approach to the site was integral to the design of the house and an important part of the project in its efforts to foster a symbiotic relationship between the architecture and the environment in this coastal development. The extensive and diverse native plantings and rejection of a traditional lawn connects the site to the canal and community by increasing biodiversity, decreasing habitat fragmentation, and slowing and filtering stormwater runoff.