The Off-Grid itHouse is a design system developed by architecture studio Taalman Koch in Pioneertown, California that utilizes a series of components prefabricated off-site to help better control the construction waste, labor, and quality of the finished product. Conceived as a small house with glass walls and open floor plan, the itHouse maximizes the relationship of the occupant to the surrounding landscape while minimizing the building’s impact on delicate site conditions.
Energy efficiency is achieved in the itHouse through passive heating and cooling, utilizing site orientation and cross ventilation, radiant floor heating, hi-efficacy appliances & equipment and the use of solar photovoltaic & thermal panels.
To further enhance the experience of living in a glass house, a graphic design is mapped to discreet areas of the glass walls, creating framed views, sun-shading screen patterns and privacy zones. Artists Sarah Morris and Liam Gillick custom designed the graphic outfit for the off-grid itHouse.
Photos: Gregg Segal
This ultra stunning modern beach house has been designed by ZeroEnergy Design to be an environmentally sensible home in beautiful Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The clients are a professional couple, both in different medical fields with a large family including grown children and grandchildren, came to the architects with some unusual space requirements, a narrow lot on an environmentally sensitive site, and a magnificent west-facing view.
They normally reside in downtown Boston, but plan to spend their summers and weekends on the Cape. While their Boston residence accommodates some of their children, their new 6,200 square foot, seven bedroom, eight bathroom beach home will be the only place that will accommodate all seven of them, including their significant others and the grandchildren, thus dictating the need for an extensive number of bedrooms. The entire family will gather over the summer and on holidays, while the couple will use the home by themselves during weekends throughout the year.
Planning for the extreme variation in occupancy was an issue the designers dealt with from the start. The home is split into a ˜Living Bar’ and a ˜Sleeping Bar.’ The Sleeping Bar is the expansion module with numerous bedrooms & bathrooms to accommodate the entire family. The Living Bar includes the living and dining areas, as well as a secondary master bedroom – all that the couple needs when the children are away. This programmatic zoning allows the Sleeping Bar to be shut down during the majority of the year to decrease energy use.
The site has a spectacular west-facing view of the water and sunset. The area of west-facing orientation of the glazing used to capture this view certainly isn’t ideal for energy performance. The narrow lot size, combined with the client’s square footage requirements and the obvious desire to be able to take in the view from the primary living space made the un-ideal orientation of the glazing unavoidable. The rest of the building envelope certainly offsets the luxury view.
The exterior finishes will allow the home to turn a traditional Cape Cod grey and blend into the dunes. The site is vegetated with indigenous plants that prevent erosion and won’t require irrigation.
Choices were also made to promote healthy indoor air quality. Flooring was limited to slate, bamboo, and polished concrete, while omitting any carpeting that might capture dust, mites, mold, or moisture. The rapidly renewable bamboo flooring is bound with nontoxic glues. The insulation in interior walls and floor, used for sound insulation and to improve the performance of the radiant heating system, is formaldehyde-free. An air exchange and energy recovery system will provide clean fresh air throughout the year.
Silvia and Silvia of Osterville built the home with double stud framing which allows a continuous layer of foam insulation (uninterrupted by studs). The geothermal system, coupled with a radiant heating system, will supply all of the heating and cooling for the year. Aside from energy efficient appliances and water heaters, all of the spaces are well illuminated using energy efficient fixtures. The client also decided to minimize the home’s reliance of fossil fuels. Propane is used only for cooking. There is no natural gas.
The roof sports a large solar electric array to offset energy usage through the use of net metering. A battery back-up and energy management system will store electricity from the solar array to ensure the basic functions of the home through blackouts without the use of a gas-powered generator. The combination the energy efficient building envelope and systems with the solar array will allow the home to produce nearly as much energy as it uses over the course of a year!
Photos: Eric Roth
2381 Lucky John Residence was designed by The Jaffa Group in Park City, Utah. From day one owner/architect Scott Jaffa wanted to design an innovative energy conscious home that looked toward integrated design and energy solutions. This LEED-certified 5,300 square foot, four bedroom and four-and-a-half bathroom home is truly a mountain contemporary residence blending modern architectural elements with finishes from the surrounding environment. This home is not only tasteful but more importantly, thoughtfully designed with no amenity or ounce of finish work overlooked.
The flat 1.25-acre lot allows for a private front entry court that creates a sense of arrival while the rear courtyard is perfect for private entertaining. This outdoor entertainment area contains a firepit and enormous yard. The exterior hardscaping and landscaping is also an integral part of the overall design. The great room and kitchen are overwhelmingly comfortable and light, which inspire a true sense of “home” — a place to enjoy quality family time or host thoughtful celebrations, with a window wall that brings the outdoors in.
Not only is this home a completely fresh approach to contemporary architecture in Park City, but also strives to be “green.” It uses maintenance-free exterior finishes and self-sufficient utilities. Two solar panel systems were installed to capitalize on the nearly 360 days of sun that Park City receives annually. The first set of panels provides hot water to heat the floors and provide all of the home’s domestic hot water. The second system is 6-kilowatt photo-voltaic array, which brings in enough electricity to power 300, 100-watt light bulbs everyday.
The home has been thoroughly insulated to assist in regulating the homes temperature against the drastic temperature swings of the mountain climate. Insulation was blown into all interior and exterior walls. One and a half inches of rigid foam insulation was attached to the exterior walls with an additional four inches of rigid foam on the roof. A unique drainage plane behind all exterior materials is used to control exterior moisture. Finally, triple-glazed windows, horizontal roofs and steel sunshades offer further protection for the home.
Photos: Courtesy of The Jaffa Group
This private retreat and vacation residence was designed by ZeroEnergy Design, nestled in a beautiful community on the New England coast of Boston, Massachusetts. This incredible home features high performance and efficient use of space in a small package. The client sought a 1,200 square foot, two bedroom, two bath home that was right sized for their family – nothing more, nothing less. They also had a goal of minimizing the home’s energy use.
A sleek, simple, gable roofed structure was designed and proposed with the Passive House standard, which is a building performance standard that yields an extremely low-energy home. A combination of exceptional insulation, air sealing, high performance windows, and solar gain reduces the space conditioning requirements to a mere fraction of a typical home, and uses only a very small heating system. The clients, whose extended families owned large, drafty, energy inefficient homes, immediately latched onto the Passive House standard for both the energy savings and the increased comfort. They looked forward to a space with no wintertime drafts and very constant temperature throughout the home.
The gable form the home was planned as the defining aesthetic feature. Its iconic shape and playful red color is carried from the eastern exterior red gable, through to the interior kitchen wall, to the living space, and back outside to the opposite western exterior gable end. Inside, a clean fresh look is achieved with minimal trim, simple polished concrete floors, and careful glazing selection.
The layout was designed around the client’s planned use. The bedrooms are located at either end of the home and receive either morning or afternoon light. The open floor plan of the living and dining space features a dining nook that bumps out of the southern side of the space. Since family and friends often visit, the nook is large enough to sit the family and all their guests. The client also expressed their love of baths. This was addressed by including a dedicated sun-filled tub room in the southeast corner of the home adjacent to the master bath.
Despite the modest footprint, the home addresses all of the client’s needs using efficient space planning, plus features storage space and a loft area above. With a ladder leading up, the loft provides the children with their own private place to spend time away from the adults.
The generous amount of south-facing windows maximize solar heat gain in the winter, using the polished concrete floor to absorb the heat and re-radiate it into the space. The north-facing high performance glass door opens up to the agrarian view out over abutting farm lands, seamlessly connecting the interior living space with the exterior patio.
High R-values in the home and exceptional air sealing mean that only about one-tenth of the energy is needed for heating when compared to the requirements of a conventionally constructed home. In addition to the very small heating system, the house also incorporates a heat recovery ventilator to maintain excellent indoor air quality with minimal energy expense.
Photos: Greg Premru Photography
Camouflaged in a dense oak forest in the province of Segovia, Spain, this house is the epitome of sustainable construction, the impulse of a couple who decided to leave Madrid for a life in the county. The owners had a strong desire to escape city life, but not too far away from the city to go as often as they need to. This family home is owned by Tino De la Carrera, a graphic designer who wanted to have a sustainable home and space to be able to work from home. The project has been designed by Garcia German Arquitectos with builder La Colombina.
This is the first housing of a future ecological urbanization which, with homes distinct from one another, will respond to a form of essential life with solar panels, garden, septic and power generation through a simple biomass system that reduces the consumption of electricity and gas up to 70%. The house was constructed in very little time, with prefabricated panels of plywood. Between the house and the ventilated facade there is 7 inches of rock wool insulation: “It’s like a great parka that keeps her warm,” explains De la Carrera. As for the interior, it’s airy and flexible to not obstruct from the views and allows you to modify the distribution at will. If that wasn’t enough, its price is lower than traditional construction.
The layout of the hall between the two large panoramic windows can be seen from this perspective. The porch has a cubic design and a depth that helps protect the interior from direct sun in the summer months.
The living/dining room, from which leads to other rooms, is a splendid view to the landscape.
The home office of the owner of the house, graphic designer Tino De la Carrera, is located on the top floor.
The house, which sits on a brick foundation, boasts flat roofs, thermal insulation and integration into the landscape.
The two floors of the house are heated by the wood Hergom stove.
All the equipment in the kitchen is from Ikea.
The concept of reuse is also transferred to this bedroom: headboard is built and painted tables, a former mannequin serves as a valet and the table comes from a demolition.
Nature sneaks into the bathroom through the window that encloses the shower, clad with stone. A carpenter’s bench has converted into a bathroom vanity cabinet; the mirror, sconces and sink is from IKEA.
Photos: Nuevo Estilo
This contemporary and sustainable LEED Platinum family show home called ‘Green Cube’ is located in downtown Denver, Colorado. The remodeled home was designed by RE.DZINE, showcasing strong architectural forms, a stunning glass staircase, recyclable 3D wall panels in the loft (from Inhabit®) a wonderful living wall feature dividing living and dining area.
Photos: Jenifer Koskinen- Merritt Design Photo
Meadowview house, designed by Platform 5 Architects, is situated on the edge of a ribbon development village in rural Bedfordshire, United Kingdom and is surrounded by mature trees, hedgerows and arable fields. The first floor, clad in sweet chestnut, overhangs a solid masonry and glass plinth; from across the fields, it looks like it is floating over the hedgerows. Internally, the living spaces are arranged to relate to different garden spaces and the wider landscape. The house incorporates sustainable technologies such as rainwater recycling, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery and photovoltaics on the roof. The landscaping forms a transition between the domestic and agricultural environments.
The sweet chestnut clad box overhangs the ground floor so that from across the fields it looks like it is floating over the hedgerows. The deep recessed balcony acts like a lens hood, framing sunsets over the countryside.
A meandering route through the house creates a sequence of gradually more private internal and external spaces. The entrance hall offers visitors views straight through the house to the pavilion in the back garden whilst screening off the living areas. As you progress though the ground floor, the space expands into a double height living room that is overlooked by the first floor study. From the living room, you can gain access to the courtyard garden where more delicate plants can grow protected from the wind and cold.
To the rear of the house, swathes of long grasses and meadow flowers are animated by the breeze giving the terrace a wharf-like feel. An area of the garden is given over to food production in raised beds, providing all of the household’s fruit and veg over the summer months.
The concept of a hovering building is continued into the details of the ash tread stair that is cantilevered off the wall in the entrance hall.
The house is well insulated, fitted with photovoltaic panles and also incorporates mechanical ventilation with heat recovery to reduce heat losses whilst a rainwater harvesting tank supplies water to the WC’s and the garden irrigation system.
Photos: Courtesy of Platform 5 Architects
Edgeland House has been developed by Bercy Chen Studio in a rehabilitated brownfield site of Austin, Texas. The home was commissioned by a science fiction writer enthralled with 21st century human habitation in the urban frontiers of abandoned industrial zones. The design is inspired by the vernacular of the “pit house”, one of the oldest housing typologies in North America used by Native Americans through the ages. Typically sunken, the building takes advantage of the earth’s mass to maintain thermal comfort throughout the year.
The residential home’s relationship to the landscape both in terms of approach as well as building performance involves an insulating green roof and a seven‐foot excavation ‐ raising awareness about a diminishing natural landscape and its finite resources by creating a balance between the surrounding industrial zone and the natural river residing on opposite side of the site. Both visually and functionally, the residence touches on architecture as site‐specific installation art and as an extension of the landscape. The program is broken up into two separate pavilions, for the living and sleeping quarters, and requires direct contact with the outside elements to pass from one to the other.
The linear courtyard down the center allows fresh air to flow between the bluff and the river below. The courtyard is a theater for observing migrating humming birds, monarch butterflies, even ant colonies, heightening one’s awareness of nature in an urban setting.
The architects collaborated with the Lady Bird Wildflower Center to reintroduce over 40 native species of wildflowers and grass to preserve the local ecosystem.
Photos: Paul Bardagjy
The Wheeler Residence was built for a couple in their 30s with three small children in Menlo Park, California. Designed by William Duff Architects this new house makes use of an existing foundation to create dramatic living spaces that flow into the landscape. The original home and an adjacent guest cottage totaled 2,500 square feet but they felt it was not large enough for the five of them. Wheeler planned a similar but larger floor plan of 5,000 square feet with more indoor-outdoor areas, similar to the ones he grew up with in Colorado. It was also a way for the family to have a modernist space with the times, visually warm and eco-friendly with solar radiant heating, cross ventilation and recycled materials. Wheeler’s son built a Lego model of what they wanted and most of it ended up in the final plan.
The basic plan shared a lot of the features with the former house and guest house that were on the lot, but with a central family room that has foldaway corner doors which open to the back garden to connect the two wings. The two houses were demolished, with their foundations saved and additional materials salvaged to incorporate into the new building or used as landscape material. Old chimney bricks were used for the paving pattern around a new pool and guest pavilion. The new foundation and the stained concrete floors use fly-ash, which is a recycled product. Recycled denim in the walls and low-VOC paints were also used. Flat roofs at varying heights, wide overhangs, clerestory windows and interplay of wood and stucco cladding mimic the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.
The modular configuration of the rooms and proportions of doors and windows are borrowed from Le Corbusier. All doors and windows are made of mahogany for a warm look and because it is a long-lasting material.
The material palette includes Cor-Ten steel, glossy prefinished Fin-Play panels and integrally colored stucco was used because they can be maintenance free.
The interior is a series of open spaces on each side of the central spine with varied ceiling heights giving the illusion of discrete rooms, and storage cabinets double as short walls to divide dining areas from living spaces, the kitchen and other public rooms.
The higher ceilings in the center also draw warm air upwards, dissipating it through operable clerestory windows.
The flat roofs hide the solar panels; one set is photovoltaic for electricity, another for heating water and the third to heat the 14-by-28-foot pool.
This rural home is nestled on an 80-acre agricultural site in California’s Central Coast wine region of Paso Robles. Paso Robles Residence is a 2,667 square foot weekend home that will eventually become the owner’s full-time residence, designed by San Francisco-based studio Aidlin Darling Design. The design directly responds to the wide diurnal temperature fluctuations of its arid climate. The architecture firm had to figure out how to create a building that cools itself naturally, even in 115-desgree temperatures. Masonry walls anchor the building to the earth and structure the primary living spaces, centering activity around a covered outdoor living room. The design integrates the use of thermal mass, night cooling, orientation, shading, deep overhangs, passive ventilation, photovoltaic electricity, solar hot water and radiant heat, thus helping to meet the clients’ goal of living in harmony with the local climate.
The home’s reliance on thermal mass, night cooling, passive solar orientation, shading, and natural ventilation enabled the clients to forgo an active cooling system.
A covered terrace with a fireplace links the home’s public wing with the pool area, facilitating outdoor dining throughout the year.
Sandblasted concrete block becomes both an interior and exterior finish material.
Strong axial relationships establish a connection to the site from every point inside the house.
Aidlin Darling Design used windows to promote cross-ventilation and to frame carefully chosen views.
Weathering steel picks up on the landscape’s darker hues.
Photos: Matthew Millman Photography