Climate Responsive Design and the Milam Residence
Energy conservation and efficiency is an essential area of focus in contemporary building design. The perception that the designers of buildings during the Modernist period of architecture ignored these principles is a false one. The present study, an examination of Paul Rudolph’s Milam Residence, a masterpiece of American residential architecture, is part of a larger project endeavoring to create a knowledge base of the environmental performance of iconic modernist homes. A critical examination of the Milam House allows insight into specific design characteristics that impact energy efficiency and conservation. Located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, the Milam Residence was constructed in 1962. It was the last of a series of Florida residences designed by Rudolph, Chairman of the Department of Architecture at Yale University (1958–1965). The structure’s form is strongly related to its location on a subtropical beachfront. This paper presents a detailed analysis of the building’s solar responsiveness. Specifically, we examine design strategies such as orientation and sunscreening and their effect on daylighting, shading, and heat gain. The analysis is based on parametric energy modeling studies using Autodesk’s Ecotect, an environmental analysis tool that allows simulation of building performance. While the initial target of the program was early design, the program allows the input of complex geometries and detailed programming of zones, materials, schedules, etc. The program's excellent analyses of desired parameters are augmented by visualizations that make it especially valuable in communicating results. Our findings suggest that the building, as built and situated on the site, does take advantage of daylighting and solar shading and does so in both expected and unexpected ways.
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