This Gambrel is a Winter’s Dream of Spring

A design project by Joseph Bergin Architect PC that was completed in drawings in the latter part of 2014 and commenced construction in August 2015 is showing good construction progress and demonstrating the fine talent of its builder, Lehto Design Build LLC.  Designed and constructed as a net-zero energy building, it is a participant in the 2016 CT Net Zero Energy Challenge.

Past readers of this blog may recall this project from a blog post called “A Collection of Gambrels” that I wrote back in 2014.  This building sits at a high elevation on Shore Road in Clinton, CT with views of Long Island Sound to one side and expansive marsh views to the other, dousing key rooms of the house in peace and tranquility.


I like alteration projects that start with an uncooperatively unclean slate.  In other words, an existing house that complicates what one can do to reuse it in making an entirely new form that, architecturally speaking, must deliver a successful outcome.  Put another way, I like a dramatic alteration that meets a stiff challenge, answers a dire call, fills a tall order, beats the odds and does so in a way that magnanimously forgets the struggles once they’ve been overcome.  In the instance of this architectural challenge, I was very grateful for the capable and creative structural engineering of Cmars Engineering, LLC.

This project started with an existing circa 1950’s ranch and a requirement by the homeowners to adopt its first floor exterior walls into a new building that would culminate in a two story shingle style gambrel house.

Along the way, the first floor walls were ultimately let go and demolished, though the footprint of the foundation still, to large measure, controlled what could take form.  Existing granite veneer was left standing, while the rest of the house was taken down to the top of the foundation, which was then raised with concrete block.


As the building was sheathed in its final form, and seeing the raw rough opening of the large semi-elliptical window in the front gable of the house, I became anxious.  I worried that the scale of the window might end up overwhelming the gable.

The window is a reclaimed antique element that was fabricated many, many decades ago for a bank building in Boston, MA.

At some time in the middle part of the last century, the bank building was being demolished and the window was rescued from the debris stream, transported instead to this place and re-used in a garage building that was then being constructed.  Now this project had slated that garage for demolition.  The present homeowners asked that the window find a place in the new building, and so it was important to me that the window contribute and succeed in a meaningful way.

Once it was installed, my anxiety faded away.  The scale and balance, to me, is successful.  You may wonder how a historic, single pane window can find a place in a house that is competing in the Net Zero Energy Challenge?  OK, I’ll give it up – it’s installed in the attic, which is outside of the conditioned building envelope 😉

Photo Credit Nick Lehto

Photo Credit Nick Lehto

It looks well progressed, but there are still some months to go before the house will be completed and occupied.  I may post again on the subject of this project.  I am not so involved in the week to week construction – only when called upon by the builder to advise on an issue that may crop up through the course of construction.  Opportunities for blog post topics are therefore not so available.

But on a warm February day, this post comes like the celebration of a bloom that has finally burst from its bud.  It feels like a peek at that dream – the one that Winter, slumbering in the open air, wears on his smiling face.  I could not contain my enthusiasm!  As the bloom develops its maturity over coming months, we’ll see if anything compels a follow-up post.  Who knows, maybe an announcement that it’s performed well in the Net Zero Energy Challenge?  Let’s hope!




  1. Larry Pasini says:

    Hi Joe. Once again, you aptly demonstrate your unique and unparalleled ability in the genre of the Architecture of the American Summer. You, sir, own this space. Bravo. Larry

  2. Chris Marseglia says:

    Joe, great job putting the project together!! Nick, has done a exceptional job executing the work also!!

  3. Jim Reilly says:

    Very nice Joe.

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