Deciding on a material for a residential project’s exterior cladding “is always a process,” says Sara Imhoff, owner and principal of Imprint Architecture + Design LLC in Stillwater. But when the project is a sustainable cabin—sited on a pasture in Iowa—for two ecologists, multiple concerns need to be addressed, in addition to aesthetics.
“Low-maintenance and longevity are always concerns, especially for cabins in remote locations that aren’t a primary residence,” Imhoff says. “In addition to those two criteria, my clients on this cabin wanted a product that would fit with the setting and be locally available—not only in terms of the materials but also for shipping and install.” The clients and design team chose thermally modified wood from Arbor Wood Co. in Duluth. “Arbor Wood Co. thermally modified wood siding uses domestically sourced and sustainably harvested timber,” according to the company’s website. “Thermal modification allows for wood not naturally suitable for exterior applications to be successful because of its compositional change on a cellular level.” The domestically and responsibly sourced wood is thermally modified using only heat and steam, not chemicals.
“My clients are very in tune with the geology of the site, the landscape, [and] the overall environment,” Imhoff says. “They not only loved the gray-beige tone of Arbor Wood’s thermally modified wood siding; [but] they [also] thought it would blend in well with the setting and be able to stand up to sun, wind, snow, and rain.”
Sited on a river bluff, the cabin has an 820-square-foot main level with Marvin windows and a 400-square-foot lower level. Modern in design, with an arched-top front entrance per the clients’ request, the cabin will include a walnut kitchen island fabricated from storm-fallen trees. Operable windows for fresh-air ventilation, a standing-seam recycled metal roof, tight thermal envelope, and passive heating and cooling because of window placement are among the cabin’s sustainable features.
The client’s brother is making steel pieces for the front entry canopy and stairway, and eventually, the house will be solar powered. By this fall, Imhoff says, the cabin will be finished. “The cabin already looks nice in its pastoral surroundings because of siding’s light tone,” she adds, “and the clients’ dog is already enjoying the view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows.”