Design for Uncertain Times

Our cutting-edge whole-house remodel, The Forever House, takes into account extreme heat, pandemic prep, and stay-at-home priorities.

Design matters. To put this in perspective, you might look no further than the daily temperature readings in Scottsdale, Ariz. Averages keep breaking records. Last year, for example, the region had 14 days where temperatures went above 115 degrees F and another 312 days where it hovered above 95 degrees F. Climate Change has never seemed so real.

Strict HOA rules required major adjustments in rooflines to allow for solar.


Reflective roof membranes over a sandwich of spray foam and Thermax insulation will decouple the mass of the roof from living spaces, while solar panels add another barrier to the sun’s relentless heat. This image shows a similar roofing system to the one planned. Image credit:  Simon Turner/Alamy Stock PhotoSIMON TURNER/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO


One of the obstacles to rebuilding in this golf-course subdivision is strict rules limiting solar panel visibility. To keep them hidden from sight, Easley and Raterman had to put them on flat roofs over the kitchen and master bedroom areas. Easley hopes to use bifacial panels over the white, reflective roofing, although specific panel types have not been finalized. These double-sided panels generate up to 30 percent more power, using light reflected from below them.

That new reality has informed the design choices of Steve Easley and Susan Raterman as they move forward with a ReVISION House remodel of their home in Scottsdale. The pair planned most of the redesign themselves, although Ed Chavez, AIA, gave meaningful input and should be credited as the architect of record.

Big Issues

Two concerns have dominated the design of this home: the sweltering heat outside and the views from inside. Then the pandemic came along and added a third goal: creating a “sanctuary” where the couple could hunker down for long periods in the worst of times. 

These goals color the hundreds of design decisions made in the house, from window placement to overhangs, roofing style, and color, to solar panel placement and the flow of air to take advantage of passive cooling. 

“Most of the design elements were already in place before the pandemic,” notes Raterman. “But this crisis really solidified our plans. For example, we knew we wanted a guest suite, and the coronavirus changed our views on how to ventilate that space.”

Also, the outdoor living areas took on new importance, according to Easley. “We’ve always tried to gather outside, but this clinched it,” he explains. “Our outdoor space — on both ends of the house—offers us the possibility to physically distance and is also an alternative place to work.”

The seating area in the back of the house will include a 24-foot by 16-foot by 12-foot high covered roof that is specifically angled to reduce heat gain, yet high enough to maintain a breathtaking view of the mountains.

Work Zones

Raterman adds that the whole house is “really geared toward separating work and personal life.” That separation becomes apparent with a glance at the new floor plan layouts. The second floor will become a telecommuting hub, with two side-by-side offices, a workout room, and, notably, a lot of extra soundproofing.

“The two offices will be isolated in terms of sound,” Easley notes. “We both do webinars on a regular basis, so they need to be super quiet.” The offices’ design calls for sound-reducing drywall, gasketing and insulation, and solid core doors. All glass in the offices will be laminated to attenuate sound.

Next Steps

The flooring for the Forever House still hasn’t been chosen, although Raterman is working with surface manufacturer MSI to choose colors and materials. “We want the colors to be soothing and circadian,” Easley notes, “since we spend so much time here.”

A View to the Future

Once renovated, the Forever House (new plan shown) will include more headroom, solar panels, and a more-functional second floor that’s ready for long stay-at-home periods. (Click the image below for a larger version)

1120gb_p48 and 49 spread web


Original parts of the Forever House, such as this sink, will be sent to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore for use in other homes.

Demolition Diligence

Careful disassembly of the existing structure will allow for many components to be reused.

Overhaul of the Forever House will involve differing degrees of disassembly and demolition. But Easley points out that every piece of the old structure that can be salvaged will be donated to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. 

About half of the exterior walls of the upper floor will be removed, but the present plan is to try to reuse as much of the lower walls as possible. One challenge, however, is that the ceiling will be raised on the first floor. “We’re hoping we can keep much of the original frame and add a pony wall on top of that,” Easley notes.

Outdoors, in the pool area, the original concrete patio and pool will be demolished. The new pool will be built in the same area, but with a vanishing edge extended. Easley points out that the new materials around the pool, porcelain pavers from Belgard, will not have the same one-way lifecycle. 

“These pavers can be set in a sand base,” he explains, “so if you need access beneath them, you can just pull them up, and put them back. Combine that with the fact that we’re installing (DuPont) ForeverLawn artificial turf (instead of a lawn), and the potential water savings in this climate is enormous.”