SustainABLE for ME Design Awards – Honor Award


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363HOUSE and john gordon | architect are proud recipients of an Honor Award for design as bestowed by the SustainABLE for ME Maine Design Awards 2015, co-sponsored by Alpha One and AIA Maine. We are deeply honored for 363HOUSE to be recognized as a vanguard of accessible residential design. Jury comments include, “Love this one, done very well and elegantly, superlative, favorite” and “Totally blew me away” and “Entry door threshold: brilliant” and “Epitome of great design”!  The following gallery of images depicts accessible features and building design (click on any image to enlarge and enter gallery view mode).

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green eggs. no ham.


WHAT: U.S. Green Building Council – Maine Chapter. Green Eggs (a monthly breakfast forum featuring a speaker and topic relevant to green buildings).

WHEN: Wednesday, June 5 at 7:30 a.m.

WHERE: Maine Audubon, Gilsland Farm Education Center, 20 Gilsland Farm Rd, Falmouth, ME.

I will be presenting a case study entitled Universal Design and LEED.  The presentation will share insights re: design and construction of 363HOUSE.

A house tour will be conducted on Friday, June 7 from 4 -6 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

Learn more at


shower drain

i know, such an exciting post title!  (please refer to the previous post “hiatus completus” for photo of the shower and context for below).

so, what’s cool about this drain is not just it’s sublime (sophisticated?) aesthetics, but it’s important function.  obviously, it’s primary function is to drain water from the shower.  but, it’s design and location will provide drainage with minimal negative impacts re: wheelchair.  this linear drain allows the shower floor to slope toward the rear wall thus minimizing the potential for water to find its way out of the shower proper.  the floor slope is mono-pitch vs. multi-pitch (with requisite “valleys”), more commonly provided with a “typical” central floor drain (usually square or round) .  therefore, jessica’s shower chair will be more stable (less likely to roll around).  and, it looks cool!

this shower drain is KERDI-LINE manufactured by schluter.  a variety of covers are available, including one that accepts tile.  the cover is easily removed for cleaning.

schluter KERDI-LINE, linear floor drain at jessica's shower.

schluter KERDI-LINE, linear floor drain at jessica’s shower.


VPL – vertical platform lift


This gallery contains 12 photos.

VPL (Vertical Platform Lift) also/formerly known as wheelchair lift.  quite the piece of machinery.  photo gallery below documents how the 13’+ tall tower was inserted into the shaft.  i was skeptical  but, kevin (the installer) kept saying “yeah, we’ll git … Continue reading

accessible door sill detail

one lesson-learned from a new house we built for jessica in 2004 was the impact of exterior door sills.  finding the proper balance of “flushness” (minimizing the “bump” at the door) and weather control (keeping the elements outside where they belong) is the ongoing battle, especially when accommodating a wheelchair.  we thought we had adequately addressed the issue in 2004, but we were wrong. those doors have a very robust weather-resistant sill assembly.  unfortunately, that equated into a robust wheelchair barrier, as well.  we were able to mitigate to some extent by installing small aluminum “ramps” at each door, but the solution remains a basic “fail”.  so, in this house we’ve been determined not to repeat that mistake (we’ll just create some new ones!).  the following documents our low-impact door sill detail.

section detail showing basic components and dimensions.  note: dimensions are specific to the drewexim profile and dimensions.

section detail showing basic components and dimensions. resulting “bump” at interior door sill is about 3/8″ – an easy roll-over for jessica.  one reason we liked the drewexim doors was the availability of this low-profile sill.  the biggest challenge in this detail is providing a suitable thermal break between the edge of the floor slab and the granite.

photo showing recess in foundation wall for lowered sill assembly.

photo showing recess in foundation wall for lowered sill assembly.

here it is at rough install stage.  when backfilled/paved, the granite sill will mostly disappear.  granite seems like a somewhat "precious" material to bury, but these sill pieces only cost about $60 each.  a small price to pay for the durability of granite in this harsh environment.

here it is at rough install stage. when backfilled/paved, the granite sill will mostly disappear. granite seems like a somewhat “precious” material to bury, but these sill pieces only cost about $60 each. a small price to pay for the durability of granite in this harsh environment.

here's what it looks like from exterior.

here’s what it looks like from exterior.

we look forward to exterior paving and jessica’s first “test drive”!



accessible design

As a result of an automobile accident in 1999, Jessica is a C6/C7 quadriplegic.  Obviously, this impacts nearly every aspect of her life.  Thus, her home environment must be barrier-free.  The design quest is to eliminate all barriers to an accessible life and do so in a manner that renders the lack of barriers unnoticeable.  In other words, Jessica’s house must be appear and function like a “typical” home.

Some accessible design strategies are easily attained, i.e.: wider (36”) doors.  Some are subtle and detail-intensive, i.e.: foundation details to lower door sills and eliminate the typical “bump” at the door.  The kitchen presents many obstacles. Design solutions here include thoughtful selection and locations of appliances (i.e.: the wall oven is situated to allow Jessica to “park” in front with the open oven door providing protection from hot spillage when transferring from the oven to the nearby countertop, and vice versa) ; proper countertop heights to accommodate access, comfort and safety; kitchen layout that optimizes Jessica’s mobility (she has greater strength and dexterity with her right arm/hand); careful consideration of common kitchen activities (i.e.: pot-filler faucet at stove so Jessica can fill a pot on the stove); and, remote switching at exhaust hood fan and lights (Jessica can’t reach the controls mounted on the hood).

Much thought was devoted to site and building design relative to one-story vs. two-story building configuration.  The site (land use restrictions) could have accommodated a one-story building, but would have resulted in very little useable exterior area, an important program requirement for Jessica and Todd (and their big dogs!).  As a result, a two-story scheme was developed.  Second floor access is provided via a wheelchair lift (enclosed with a door at the ground floor – virtually no visual evidence of a lift in the house).

Another site-related design consideration is the garage and vehicle access.  Jessica recently purchased a new van that will allow her to drive again.  Much thought has been given to parking the van in the garage, loading/unloading, etc.  Jessica will back the van into the garage to allow the side-mounted sliding van door to open and deploy a ramp that will directly align with the entrance door into the house.  The garage floor is 4” lower than the house floor (code required minimum).  This helps to minimize the ramp angle into the van resulting in easier and safer entering/exiting the van in a wheelchair.

In summary, many of life’s details that able-bodied folks take for granted must be carefully considered for Jessica to live a more “normal” life.  A forthcoming post will present more examples of accessible design at 363HOUSE.