Mount Desert Island is one of the most beautiful places in New England. Situated in the middle of Penobscot Bay in Maine, which is home to Acadia National Park, one of the most visited parks in the National Park system. The landscape is classic Maine, with evergreen trees clinging to a rocky coastline. Over the past 150 years it has been a summer retreat for many, including the Rockefellers who helped create the carriage trails in the Park, and home to the infamous “cottages” of the wealthy that came to the Island starting in the second half of the nineteenth century to escape the hot summer temperatures of the cities. It was on this island, in this historic setting, that Pondicherry was created. With a love of this unique place and a desire to find a way to live here in harmony with the natural setting, the owners sought out Scott Simons Architects to help them design a unique house, one that would combine aesthetic beauty and ultra high environmental performance.
They were looking to create a new way of living on Mount Desert Island. They appreciated the natural beauty of the Island and loved to hike in Acadia National Park. They wanted to design a house that was in harmony with the Park surroundings vs. the large cottages of Northeast Harbor where their family had vacationed for over a century. After years of searching they found and purchased a piece of property on a glacial pond along the edge of the Park boundary. They imagined a house that would respect the natural setting and features of the site, and used phrases like “simple, clean lines”, “human scale”, “lots of natural light”, “all natural materials”, and “timeless quality” to describe what they were looking for. Their initial goal was to have a high performance house that did not consume a lot of energy. The husband was on the board of a national environmental organization, and he managed the family forestry business in northern Maine. He was in contact with a lot of people who were talking about how to preserve the environment and wanted his house to reflect that commitment. During our initial meetings about the design of the house we discussed different approaches to not only the layout and look of the house, but also what we could do to reduce its carbon footprint. As the design of the project developed, we realized we could achieve much higher sustainability goals than originally imagined. The idea of a beautifully designed home, thoughtfully sited on a beautiful piece of land on Mount Desert Island, that could also generate all its own electricity and hot water, emerged as our new goal. We set out to integrate the best of design with the best of energy performance. We raised our targets to Net-Zero Energy and LEED Platinum certification, and began developing the energy and daylight models to test the performance of the schematic design concept. When the design of the house was nearly complete, they told us they were going to name their new house Pondicherry, which means “new settlement”.