Custom Home (Washington, DC)


Jeff Speck, an urban planner and former design director of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed his modern brick and glass home as a wooden rectangle inserted into a brick triangle. Despite the exterior appearance, there are no pointed rooms. Speck used a closet on the first floor, a wood-burning stove on the second floor and a chimney on the top floor to make full use of the corner. The three-story home includes approximately 500 square feet per floor, with a steel triangular spiral staircase that extends throughout. Speck also incorporated numerous sustainable elements, such as a 12-panel, 2-kilowatt solar panel system, a solar water heater, dual-flush toilets, and radiant heating under the sub-flooring. The Unico System was another key factor in the design because the small ducts were less intrusive to the ultra-modern design.


Speck was able to cool the lower two stories with a conventional system that had ductwork below the ceiling, but space was at a premium in the upper stories due to the minimalist, clean design. He did not want ducts to interfere. Unico was an ideal solution because its ductwork could fit in very tight spaces without being exposed. The air handling unit fits into an area above the third-floor bathroom and serves 1,000 square feet on the two floors below. These two floors include the bedrooms and the main living area with the living room, dining room and kitchen. Unico’s white circular outlets complement the minimalist design in these areas.


The home has received widespread acclaim for its innovative design and unique structure, including a cover story in the Washington Post Magazine Fall Home & Design Issue in 2008. According to Speck, The Unico System is performing admirably and achieves the comfort level he anticipated.