Cool Without AC: Dewees Island House Featured in Mother Earth News

Vacation home by Whitney Powers, AIA, one of three projects selected.

May 24, 2011 (Charleston, SC) – A sustainable beach house on Dewees Island, SC,

The Yost House, designed by architect Whitney Powers, AIA

designed by Whitney Powers, AIA, of Studio A, Inc., in Charleston, is one of three

houses selected by Robyn Griggs Lawrence whose blog “Natural Home & Garden” is carried in Mother Earth News to demonstrate successful “passive cooling” without air conditioning.

“Over the years, I’ve been in enough naturally cooled homes—in brutally hot and humid climates—to know that passive cooling works,” Griggs Lawrence writes. She visited the house Powers designed for Rives and Walter Yost to experience the effect herself.

Powers’ two-level, 2700-square-foot Yost house features eight screened porches, an abundance of French doors and sash windows, high ceilings, and ceiling fans to facilitate natural ventilation.

“We didn’t come all the way from Pittsburgh to close the windows and doors,” Mrs. Yost told Griggs Lawrence.

A view from the kitchen through the living area and out to the porch and trees.

The ventilation system Powers designed pulls air in through the windows on the lower floors and up through the house to windows located beneath the gables. Reflective window coatings deflect the sun and reduce solar heat gain. Screened-in sleeping porches also provide naturally cool places to rest.

“The Yost house is designed for indoor/outdoor living, with porches on the front, back, and corners of the house that provide outdoor living space and permit windows and doors to be left open for constant access to island breezes and the sound of birds, rustling trees, and crashing waves,” the article states.

The article also spotlights a small co-housing unit in Carrboro, NC, by architect Giles Blunden, and an oceanfront home in Florida’s Upper Matecumbe Key by Jersey Devil Design/Build for their passive cooling systems.

Griggs Lawrence calls passive cooling “a fast-growing trend that’s not likely to go away soon.” To read the entire article, go to

For more information on Whitney Powers, AIA, and to see more of her sustainable residential designs, visit

About Whitney Powers, AIA:

Whitney Powers, AIA, LEED AP, founded Studio A, Inc. in downtown Charleston, SC, in 1989, as a full-service architectural firm that proposes that the responsibility of architecture is to cultivate a language of form that promotes a sustainable culture and landscape, and that touches the emotions of delight, surprise and wonder. From cutting-edge contemporary architecture to the preservation and restoration of historic homes, structures and sites, Studio A is committed to an interactive relationship between the natural and built environments, conservation of energy and natural resources, and an appreciation for a “sense of place” where living, working and playing are connected with the specific idiosyncrasies of culture, climate and natural landscape where they take place. For more information visit

Studio A Reinvents “5 College Way” for College of Charleston


May 22, 2008 (CHARLESTON, SC) — With architect Whitney Powers’ guidance, a 19th century house at 5 College Way will assume a 21st purpose by the end of this year as it is transformed into offices and seminar space for the College of Charleston’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The building will also house the College’s Writing Workshop under celebrated author and professor Bret Lott.

According to Powers, principal of Studio A, Inc., in Charleston, the challenge with this and any other adaptive reuse project is to make sure 21st century needs do not compromise the house’s historic character.

“We intend to restore many of the building’s historic features and finishes,” she said, while the design and engineering team also installs a high efficiency HVAC system, infrastructure data and communications systems, and new lighting.

The 4,821-square-foot house dates back to 1826, Powers said, when the small, private College of Charleston was forced to raise operating funds by selling off land adjacent to the campus’s historic center, which is now known as the “Cistern.” The College reacquired the house in the late 19th century.

Like the nearly 100 historic buildings on campus, 5 College Way experienced plenty of wear and tear from students and faculty over the years. Good paint jobs and routine repairs have kept it in generally good condition, Powers noted. But her plans call for exposing, repairing, and restoring details that give the house its personality, including the exterior “piazza.”

Working with Studio A on the project are structural engineers 4SE, Inc., and mechanical/electric/plumbing engineers CRG Engineering, Inc.

For more information on Studio A, Inc., visit


MUSC College of Pharmacy Moves In: Studio A Completes Restoration of Historic House in Charleston

May 15, 2008 (CHARLESTON, SC) – The 1802 Anderson House in downtown Charleston, once in complete disrepair despite its historical significance, has found a new life as much-needed office space for the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Pharmacy.

Architect Whitney Powers, principal of Studio A in Charleston, designed the restoration and adaptive reuse of the 7300-square-foot Federal Style house originally built by Daniel Cannon, a sawmill owner and house builder for whom the city’s Cannonborough neighborhood is named.

“This is an extraordinary example of an original, Federal-style ‘suburban villa,’ “ Powers said. “The building’s perfect proportions lend a remarkable delicacy to this grand structure. Its wonderful craftsmanship and durability are a testimony to the attention to detail accomplished under Daniel Cannon’s guidance.”

In 1838, Southern industrialist William Gregg purchased the two-and-a-half story house. He made a number of technological modifications and introduced numerous elements of the then-fashionable Greek Revival style. By the time the College of Pharmacy purchased it, however, it was in serious need of a facelift and a total interior restoration.

A veteran of historic restoration, Powers knew she would have to balance the preservation of the house with the School of Pharmacy’s functional requirements. “So we worked closely with the staff to integrate the historic significance of the building into the school’s administrative needs,” she said.

On the exterior, the architect was careful not to reinforce the architectural significance of the building without highlighting any particular era of its evolution.

“We realized that the building was significant, not for any single period or style, but for its composite nature,” she said. “Our analysis of the existing conditions indicated that the ad hoc enclosures at the ground floor and the first floor piazza consisted of miscellaneous window sashes and other seemingly found materials, none of which were character-defining features.”

The piazza’s rooftop balustrade also was not historically significant and water frequently seeped in where the upright posts penetrated the roof. The Board of Architectural Review approved removing balustrade, which solved a long-term maintenance problem. Whitney also removed the ground level and piazza enclosures, which returned the piazza to its more historically accurate appearance.

The interior, which had undergone a litany of renovations and alterations over the years, required all-new electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems as well as repairs and refinishes to all of the walls, floors and ceilings.

Stylistically, “the original delicacy of the Adams-style details had been countered by the more robust Greek Revival alterations of the mid-19th Century,” Powers said. “We maintained these alterations as evidence of the house’s evolution over time. Then we specified new fittings and finishes that are historically appropriate for this remarkable interior.”

To the College of Pharmacy’s credit, the staff readily embraced many accommodations that will prevent wear and tear on the historic finishes, Powers said, including extensive use of task lighting and the arrangement of upper-level office areas.

The Historic Charleston Foundation recently described the building as one of the “…largest, most intact Federal period houses in the city with architectural details equaled only by those within the Nathaniel Russell House.”

Studio A’s work in sustainable design and historic preservation/restoration has received numerous design awards and has been featured in local, regional and national design magazines and journals. For more information, visit