Category: Residential
Location: Paso Robles, CA
Size: 2667 sq. ft.
Masonry Used: Approx. 3,874 sq. ft. (wall surface area) of Basalite (FKA Blocklite) "Solarstone" ~4,400 units.
Submitted by: Aidlin Darling Design

Project Description

This rural home sits on an 80-acre agricultural site in California's Central Coast wine region. From the plan layout to the assembly details, the building responds to the extreme climate of its desert locale, to the social dynamic of an extended family, and to the indoor-outdoor continuity of rural life.

The making of the home is grounded in the primal act of masonry walling. Concrete block walls create the spatial, social, and ecological organization of the building. Masonry was chosen for its elemental presence, its link to historic building traditions, and its visual and textural harmony with the surrounding natural environment. These walls create the primary spaces of the home, defining private and public zones and anchoring them into the land. Their vectoral arrangement structures views outward, framing distant landmarks to provide orientation within the landscape, while their tough muscularity provides both physical and psychological shelter.

The design organizes domestic activity around the passage of the sun throughout the day, choreographing the quotidian rhythm of life on the land. This rhythm - and the plan of the building - is centered around a covered outdoor living and dining room, the heart of the home and the hub of family activity. Open interior living spaces adjoin the outdoor living zone, creating comfortable and casual gathering spaces for both the small nuclear family and larger extended-family groups. Removed from the primary living zone, intimate bedrooms offer privacy and retreat when desired, each with its own separate outdoor domain.

In addition to creating an enjoyable rural retreat, the house was designed with ecological responsibility as a principal goal. Despite summer temperatures soaring to 115 degrees, the house was built without air conditioning. A combination of thermal mass, building orientation, shading devices, and intelligent ventilation (borrowing the “night cooling” concept from area wineries) allows a bright, open home that remains comfortable throughout the day and throughout the year. This energy-efficient performance allows solar photovoltaic and thermal panels to provide electricity, space heating, and hot water.

Key to the both the conceptual and environmental premise of the design was the use of a specialty concrete masonry unit. Basalite's “Solastone” was selected for its combination of thermal mass and improved insulation value. Composed of two parallel cores, the 10” wide blocks allow for one core to be conventionally grouted, and the other to be foam insulated. To embed the precision masonry in its rural landscape and to achieve a more residential character, the faces were lightly sandblasted for a softer, slightly weathered texture.

The design team approached sustainability as more than simply a checklist of aggregated features. One of our guiding principles was the simultaneous performance of multiple functions by a single design element, achieving maximum benefit from minimal means. Beyond mere efficiency, this multiplicity ensures that each component is elemental and meaningful. Ecologically responsible decisions are integrated throughout the design, making sustainability a deeply-embedded and inseparable quality of the completed project.

Some special building spaces include a large glass enclosed quiet study room with a fireplace, a community meeting room, a cafe, a large children's area & dedicated storytime room, and a teen space separated with a glass garage door.

In summary, the stone used throughout this project was one of the most important elements to give this building the regional character and warm, distinctive, sense of place quality desired.

Project Participants

Architect / Designer's Name: Paso Robles Residence Team
Company: Aidlin Darling Design
Phone: (415) 974-5603

Structural Engineer' s Name: Bill Lynch
Company: Berkeley Structural Design
Phone: (510) 981-1016

General Contractor's Name: Turko Semmes
Company: Semmes and Company Builders
Phone: (805) 466-6737

Masonry Contractor's Name: Calvin Craig
Company: Calvin Craig Masonry
Phone: (805) 238-7997

Masonry Supplier's Name: David Willis
Company: Basalite Concrete Products Inc.
Phone: (209) 833-3670

Landscape Architect's Name: Rick Mathews
Company: Madrone Landscape
Phone: (805) 466-6263

Name: Barak Miles
Company: Geo-West (Civil Engineer)
Phone: (805) 461-5560