Home & Design

Designer Christie Leu selected Benjamin Moore Grappa, a bold purple hue, for the kitchen cabinetry.

A rattan chair by Viggo Boesen and a teak-root coffee table add interest in the sitting area.

The home's two volumes are separated by a glass-topped expanse; the roofs are covered in solar panels.

Built-in seating in the breakfast nook combines with a walnut-topped table and a Eurofase pendant.

A panelized EIFS system clads the exterior, with wood-look, high-pressure laminate rainscreen accents.

The light-filled entry and staircase are flanked on one side by maple panels.

Style + Sustainability

Architect David Peabody conceives Fairfax City’s 
first net-zero-energy home with a 
sleek, modern aesthetic

Alexandria architect David Peabody only designs green projects—trying, as he says, “to make buildings that are as benign as possible.” So it made sense for an Alexandria couple wanting to build an energy-efficient residence to call him first.

In fact, the electrical engineer and his wife approached Peabody with a request that pushed the sustainability envelope farther than most. “They wanted a zero energy-ready structure that could handle the home’s needs, plus those of one car and a hot tub,” the architect explains. “They wanted to employ passive-house methodology.”

Peabody designed the contemporary structure in cube form—a shape that optimizes surface/volume ratio to lower energy loss. Two sloped, south-facing roofs support ample solar panels, while a central core bisects the cube; high clerestory windows bring ventilation and northern light to the home’s center.

Peabody incorporated a six-inch-thick, exterior insulated finishing system (EIFS) that, he says, “is ideal for passive houses. It can look like traditional stucco, but here it’s panelized for a contemporary look.” A high-pressure laminate rainscreen clads parts of the exterior as a wood-look accent.

Designer Christie Leu collaborated on the home’s modern interiors. “They’re empty-nesters and wanted to be casual,” she explains. The three-story abode boasts wood surfaces with no-VOC finishes—including purple cabinetry that makes a bold statement in the kitchen. Beside a maple-paneled wall, a floating walnut-and-metal staircase occupies the home’s core. In the kitchen/great room, a fireplace wall of flamed- and brushed-basalt tile adds subtle texture. Furnishings selected by Leu blend sleek and organic styles.


Architecture: David Peabody, AIA, LEED AP, Certified Passive House Consultant, Peabody Architects, Alexandria, Virginia. Interior Design: Christie Leu, Christie Leu Interiors, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Builder: O’Neill Development, Gaithersburg, Maryland. Landscape Architecture: Moody Graham, Washington, DC.


Ask David

How do you orient a passive-energy home?
You should have decent southern exposure and your primary view should not be west-facing, as west-facing windows create too much heat gain.

How does regional climate influence your designs?
Our climate is benign, but it can be extreme. We pay special attention to humidity as well as heating requirements. We aim to spend the same amount 
for heating as for cooling.

Can you retrofit a home for sustainability?
The building envelope offers opportunities to improve efficiency. Replace windows, add attic insulation and consider exterior 
wall insulation when renovating.
 Don’t over-insulate your basement or you’ll lose the benefit of the ground cooling your house.

How do you select a mechanical system?
Most mechanical systems are over-designed so mechanical contractors don’t have to field phone calls on hot summer days. They tend to be inefficient. 
You want a contractor who will do
 the calculations correctly and design 
to the actual loads of the house.

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HOME&DESIGN, published bi-monthly by Homestyles Media Inc., is the premier magazine of architecture and fine interiors for the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia region.

The company also publishes an annual H&D Sourcebook of ideas and resources for homeowners and professionals alike. H&D Chesapeake Views is published bi-annually and showcases fine home design and luxury living in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

The H&D Portfolio of 100 Top Designers spotlights the superior work of selected architects, interior designers and landscape architects in major regions of the US.

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