The Flamm project took the site, architecture, and detailing components of a building to their creative limits. Curve board formed concrete retaining walls at the entry and rear and concrete planters with built-in stairs help fit the house comfortably into the site. No trees were removed. Using a 28-foot tapered concrete tower (the tree trunk) with 11 curving glu lam beams (the branches) also contributed to fitting the home comfortably into a site that is in a environmentally sensitive county and which must meet rigorous California coastal zone requirements.

Much of the concrete and rammed earth is exposed, both inside and outside the home. Fly ash substituted more than 25% of the portland cement for the concrete. The exposed black slab with artistic brass inlay was polished with 3000-grit pads for a low-maintenance finish.

Using a concrete post-and-beam system solved the complicated earthquake structural challenges. Blending the rammed earth in between the concrete post and beam system provides a texture that simulates much of the sedimentary earth formations in the area. This also provides thermal mass to stabilize the home's temperature.

Rammed earth uses local graded and sifted earth with one and a half to two sacks of portland cement per yard, hydraulically rammed into substantial forms with some water.

The floor throughout the office is black stained concrete with selected aggregates. Brass inlays divide it into an artistic pattern and controls cracking. The concrete was polished to a 3000-grit and sealed with a nontoxic penetrating sealer.

The concrete tower is a key element. Besides supporting the roof, it provides a chase for the chimney pipe from the woodstove which, when running, heats up the concrete like a thermal battery. Oval openings in the tower let heat enter the living space. The reverse is true for cooling. Vents on top of the tower remove built up heat and draw in ocean breezes.

Project Participants

OWNER: Randy & Nancy Flamm, Cambria, Calif.

ARCHITECT/DESIGNER: d2b design, Cayucos, Calif.

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Taylor/Syfan Engineers, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Semmes & Co Builders Inc., Atascadero, Calif.

CONCRETE CONTRACTOR: Andy Easterbrook Concrete, San Miguel, Calif.

PROJECT MANAGER: Semmes & Co. Builders, Atascadero, Calif.