It wasn't so much the appearance of the Allman House that attracted Masonry Construction's Top Project judges but the many excellent properties of masonry the home embodies. Of all the competition entries, only the Allman House submission really emphasizes masonry's environmental benefits, judge Dan Shapiro pointed out. "This ecologically-oriented project shows that masonry is energy-efficient."

Designed and built by the owner, James Allman, a mason and masonry contractor, the house functions like a masonry heater in the winter by maintaining heat in its thermal mass. Conversely, the house stays cool in the summer by holding a more consistent temperature and being less susceptible to outside temperature variances. "The purpose of the home is to maximize strength and endurance while maintaining efficiency and beauty," explained Allman.

The all-masonry house includes more than 100,000 brick and approximately 16,000 block, with 16-inch-thick walls from the footer to the roof. The external walls are cavity walls with a 4-inch brick exterior wythe, an 8-inch CMU backup, and a 4-inch cavity filled with spray-in Icynene insulation. The interior walls are plastered directly over the block. Limestone sills, headers, and wall caps are also used throughout.

The house features two Rumford-style fireplaces; three Finnish-style masonry heaters with brick ovens, heated benches, and a heated hearth; and one brick oven with a cast-iron wood-fired cooktop. On the first, second, and third floors, masonry heaters are the heat source. The backup heating system is hot-water radiant-heat tubing placed into a 3-inch concrete topping over precast slabs.

"Great thought was put into the design to incorporate thermal mass, masonry heaters, and wood-fired cookstoves," said Bill Palmer. "The whole house is like a masonry heater. I like the way the cookstoves were built into the fireplaces. With hollow-plank floors and double-wythe masonry, this design and construction surely creates an extraordinarily cozy and quiet home."

Project team
James Allman
Designer: James Allman
Builder: James Allman Masonry