It is not uncommon for retiring couples to expand their homes after their children have moved on. This could mean that a 2,000 S.F. home intended to house four becomes a 3,000+ S.F. home for two. What if the opposite was true? A house could be subtractable – as a family decreases in number, part of the house could simply be unbolted and sold to help pay the mortgage, fund an expensive vacation, or pay for a college education.

The concept of a “subtractable” home occurred to Tullio Inglese one day while constructing his own residence for his wife and himself after their five children had gone their various ways. Deliberating between an ecologically sized house for two versus a house with guest rooms to accommodate family visits and gatherings, the Ingleses chose the latter. However, the idea of scaling down a house at this stage of life was forefront in their minds.

Originally, Mr. and Mrs. Inglese had planned to build a ceramic shop just north of the house. When estimating the size for the shop, they realized that the east wing of their house was a perfect fit. It occurred to them that the entire wing could be the ceramic shop; all they had to do is disengage and move it.

The east wing was moved, garnering attention from The Boston Globe, which published an article focusing on the house’s “subtractable” aspect. As it turned out, the east wing instead became a separate residence on their property, housing Mr. and Mrs. Inglese’s daughter and her family.

In and of itself, the Inglese Queen Truss House stands testament to one of Mr. Inglese’s core principles of architecture – generic design. TIA Architects has designed the Queen Truss House as one of its prototypes, available with various house lengths and interior configurations. The design and structure are ecologically responsible in a number of ways.

Queen Truss Plan Variations

Queen Truss House, Floor Plan Variations.

The trusses for the Inglese house were made by a local timber framer using recycled Douglas fir. All interior finishes are of natural non-toxic materials. The house was built long and narrow, elongated on its east-west axis, with an abundance of glass facing south to maximize winter solar gain. A highly insulated double exterior wall helps eliminate heat loss. The doors and windows are insulated low-E.

The house uses both a wood burning stove and a programmable Buderus boiler, both of which are extremely efficient. Radiant heat placed directly under the hardwood floors efficiently maintains a comfortably warm environment. Separate heating zones allow for the bedroom temperatures to be kept low.

Photovoltaic panels on a standing seam metal roof provide 2.5 kilowatts of electricity – nearly enough for the entire house. The house includes edible landscaping and a large vegetable garden. The Ingleses also harvest rainwater for a small fish pond and to water their plants.

Some remaining projects that will add to the efficiency of their home, when their finances permit, include:

  • Insulated door and window shades throughout
  • Geothermal heating with the existing gas-fired boiler serving only as a back-up
  • Water columns along the south windows for additional thermal mass
  • A heat recovery ventilator to prevent condensation and mold
  • Additional photovoltaic panels.