Westchester Drive
vienna, virginia

Explanation of Project including scope:

Our clients purchased a split-level rambler in this choice neighborhood with the vision of converting it into their dream home! It was this young couple’s requirement for GMA to design, and help them build a home where they could live ‘forever’! The scope of work called for removal of over 80% of the existing building, leading to the new work being classified as ‘new construction’.

Out design program was to create a custom home with new formal & informal Living spaces, a gourmet Kitchen complete with Butler’s and Walk-in pantries, Cloakroom, Master Suite with luxurious Walk-in closets, Masterbath with state of the art fixtures and components, Bedrooms with their own Walk-in closets and bathroom, Home Office and Lounge.

In addition to these, our clients directed GMA to design two separate self-contained flats; one for an au pair and the other for Grandpa. These units were to be designed so they could be individually accessed from the exterior, yet integrated such as to be experienced as part of the main house.

Unusual Constraints or challenges:

Existing conditions of the site turned out to be the greatest challenge for the design team!

There were two 20-foot wide drainage easements, one 15-foot wide sanitary sewer easement and an additional 30-foot wide storm drainage easement due to the presence of an existing creek. These mostly crisscrossed at the rear of the sight with one of the 20-foot wide drainage easements running alongside the entire length of the property.

Side yard setbacks were maxed out, front yard setback requirements left minimal room for expansion and the easements presented the design team with an irregular, ‘weird-shaped’ buildable area to develop.

Yet another challenge was our clients request to preserve and utilize any existing structural element that could be salvaged in the design of the new home. The goal was to efficiently manage the construction budget and minimize costs.

Creative solutions to the challenges:

Collaborating with our structural engineers, GMA performed a thorough structural analysis of the existing building. The design team was able to integrate some existing structural components such as foundation and beams into the new building. This resulted in significant construction cost savings! For instance, the cost of new foundations was reduced by 30%.

GMA took advantage of a provision in local building code that allowed for the creation of several cantilevered bays which has become the defining aesthetic character of the new building. 3-foot projections into side yard setbacks were allowed as long as they are bay windows. To be considered as such, these bay windows had to consist of more than 50% glass. GMA was able to effectively widen what will have been a 44-foot wide building to a 50-foot wide building, a gain of 13.6% in overall width.

The inherent split-level ‘nature’ of the original building was employed to clearly define the new self-contained flats.

Overall results of the project:

A very interesting building with lots of aesthetic character has been created for our clients to call ‘home’. Five different floor plate levels make it quite the spatial experience as one moves through the building.

The large expanses of glass in these new cantilevered ‘boxes’ allow multiple uninterrupted views to the exterior.  These frame the picturesque exterior and there’s a sense of the outside brought right into the home. This helps to make the building part of its surroundings, which is a core design philosophy at GMA; respect for what’s existing, sensitivity to natural elements, and seamless integration of old and new!

g. manu & associates - architectural design & build

g. manu & associates - architectural design & build