Vashon Island House is a 1,750 square foot custom designed prefab cabin by Seattle architecture firm FabCab, located on Vashon Island, King County, Washington. The family cabin, built by Potential Energy, is comprised of two bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, a flex room/den, and a 300 square foot bump-out screened-in porch with a fireplace and wall of windows. The family enjoys speeding time together chilling in this amazing cabin, taking in the natural surroundings and watching the islands habitat wander by. The home also showcases a sweeping butterfly roof, enabling the structure to open towards the views in two directions. With extended roof overhangs and plenty of covered spaces, there are wonderful opportunities for indoor-outdoor living. Additional features to the home includes a children’s loft, an outdoor shower and a multi-panel folding door system.
The flooring throughout the home is polished concrete with radiant heat, with the added benefit of being able to use the controls from anywhere by way of an iPhone. The structural insulated panels (SIPs), along with energy-efficient windows, enabled the home to achieve three stars from Built Green, which is an environmental building program of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish counties.
Photos: Dale Lang
The Orcas Island Home is a contemporary prefab home design with 1,828 square feet of living space by FabCab, located on Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands, Washington. This two bedroom, two bathroom + den home home showcases major curb appeal with a reverse shed extension over the front door. The architects build eco-friendly homes, this particular one is their TimberCab home, which features Douglas Fir timberframes, including their premium level of finish. Their timeberframes and wall/roof panels have been pre-cut with state of the art technology and a licensed contractor labels the homes as an efficient build at the site. Their home packages are devised with flexibility in mind and can be shipped to most building sites.
The architects created a welcoming entryway into this rustic home, which opens to full on water views from across the room.
This beautiful open plan living room/kitchen/dining room offers a large expanse of windows to filter in plenty of natural light and offers spectacular water views. The home is nestled on a wooded landscape that helps to offer privacy and a welcoming country escape for the homeowners.
The porcelain tiling in the bathroom is from American Olean.
The beautiful furnishings featured on the deck were curated from Costco and Wayfair.
Photos: Dale Lang
Casa Incubo is a modular home consisting of eight shipping containers two stories high, built as a live/work space by architect Maria Jose Trejos in Escazú, an upscale suburb of San Jose, Costa Rica. Completed in 2013, the 4,305 square foot (400 square meters) property is not only surrounded by an abundance of nature, but it also encircles it with the structure enveloping a large cedar tree. This fabulous feature represents the principle concept of the project, which is an icon of sustainability.
Description from the architects: This design was conceived as a modular concept with eight reusable 40’ High Cube containers, united by a central two-story module that serves as the unifying element for the rest of the spaces. This articulating space is highly versatile and can serve various purposes, both as a social area and workspace: the house “gets dressed and undressed” according to the activities being carried out, with options including a main room, a high- definition audiovisual reproduction space, a photography studio and a publicity studio.
The project is also a result of the “interconnection” of containers that provides an additional surface, so that with four containers, the central module achieves 95 square meters of additional space, significantly reducing the building materials needed. At the same time, one of the second-story containers can shift lightly to one side to create exterior spaces with the use of a terrace and vestibule, with a secondary access on the facade.
This project questions the need for excessively large spaces, and challenges its occupants to be efficient. The project’s first level serves as a workspace and social area, while private rooms and space for private study are developed on the second level; the exterior walkway leads to the stairs that connect with the third?floor terrace, an open living space.
The bamboo covering, or “skin,” on the northeastern facade is composed of mobile panels that protect the inner spaces from solar radiation, and can be manipulated according to the sun’s movement during the afternoon hours. This skin also creates movement on the facade.
The cedartree, which predates the project on this land, plays a very important role in the placement of the home in the lot; the home was designed so that the tree can be seen from any point of the house. Sliding bamboo panels on the west side of the house can be adjusted to provide shade during the later part of the day.
The shape of the house also responds to the weather conditions of this particular location: the central two-story module acts as a cross-ventilation lung, and the western facade is glazed to achieve natural light.
Various considerations were taken into account to minimize the house’s environmental impact, from its design and materials to its energy conservation systems. For example, materials were chosen that are renewable, reusable or recyclable, as well as durable and low-maintenance. Wood from the branches of the cedar tree was used in stairs and other furniture elements. The deck is made of wood from certified renewable sources, mixed with recycled plastic; the flooring is made of polished concrete and bamboo, among other materials.
In addition, the house has rainwater collection systems for toilets and irrigation, and is set up for solar panels; most of the doors in the home are reused container doors, its hot water is heated by the sun, the cross-ventilation eliminates the need for air conditioning, and the natural light virtually eliminates the need for electrical lighting during the day.
The use of construction containers lends a rich contrast to the design, while also reducing the environmental impact by employing an already existing element, avoiding the CO2 emissions that would have been generated by producing cement and transporting traditional construction materials to the site, not to mention a less invasive earth-moving procedure. We estimate that the use of the container reduced construction time by 20% and the total cost by approximately 20% as well.
The slanted roof above the garage, painted white to reflect the heat in the tropical environment, also contains a solar heating system for water. The home also features a rainwater collection system, particularly useful during the long rainy season.
Photos: Sergio Pucci
The RainShine House is a contemporary LEED Platinum home for a couple of empty nesters designed by architect Robert M. Cain, located in Decatur, Georgia. The home was designed as a retirement residence with provision for visiting children and extended family members. One of the most nontoxic new, single-family houses in the United States, the house has achieved and exceeded the highest level of “green architecture” possible through the United States Green Building Council’s LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] for Homes Pilot Program. It is the first modernist residence to achieve the much-coveted LEED Platinum level in the Southeastern United States.
The two-story home is comprised of 2800-square feet of living space with three-bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, nestled on a 1/3-acre infill lot. RainShine is contemporary in design and is named for key design features. The living room, dining, kitchen and guest bedrooms are sheltered by a unique butterfly roof structured with steel beams spanned by exposed 1- 1/2” tongue-and-groove wood decking. The roof floats above continuous clerestories allowing light to flood into the interior. Light shelves around the clerestory sills bounce and diffuse natural light throughout the interior.
The butterfly roof is designed to capture rainfall for a rain harvest system located in the basement (Rain) and is oriented to maximize southern exposure for a roof mounted photovoltaic system (Shine). The butterfly design, with it’s inverted gable, simplifies rainwater collection, eliminates extensive gutter and downspout systems and the associated maintenance headaches common in conventional gabled or hip roofed homes.
The home features large expanses of thermally broken glazing with solar shades and operable windows. Spaces are defined by “thick walls” containing storage, book shelves, niches, pass-throughs, closets, audio visual equipment, systems, etc. Except at certain utility areas, interior walls stop short of the ceilings and are topped by glazing, thus enhancing the floating roof effect.
Photos: Paul Hultberg Photography
Trees on the Roof is modern single family residence designed to bring the outside indoors by Meditch Murphey Architects, located in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Situated on a tight urban site, the house is surrounded by a lush fully developed tree canopy at the roof level which we wanted to be able to inhabit. So nestling into this canopy and developing the roof scape underneath it drove the design.
The roof is home to planters large enough to support twenty foot trees and a garden with soil deep enough to grow broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes. Several balconies and sitting areas snuggle under the canopies. And, of course, there’s a solar array.
Natural passive systems were employed including natural shading, day lighting, and natural ventilation. So in addition to geo-thermal, solar panels, a TRV, radiant heating, super-insulation and green materials throughout, we can expect a substantial fall harvest from the rooftop.
The architects wanted to save water by utilizing a 1,500-gallon cistern, drought-tolerant plants, a rain garden, and pervious paving. They also wanted flexibility. The house transitions from one to four bedrooms by converting multipurpose spaces. The first floor is 100% ADA adaptable and visitor accessible, promoting “aging in place.”
Carbon impact was reduced by using super-insulated walls and roofs, geothermal wells, 6KW solar array, LED lighting, and an electric car (solar-powered). The architects educated the public by offering pre- and post-construction tours. Vocational school students learned deconstruction methods when removing the dilapidated, existing house previously residing on the site.
The L-shaped plan simultaneously creates spaces that receive light from multiple sides while promoting cross-ventilation. High ceilings and expansive operable glazing seamlessly integrate indoor spaces with the outdoors, while an indoor garden enlivens the stair tower year-round. The stair core also functions as a passive air chimney. Computer-controlled exterior louvers defeat solar gain in summer and optimize passive solar heating in winter.
The living room was designed as a kind of greenhouse – one that could open up completely to the outside.
The kitchen opens out to a raised herb garden.
Clerestories allow light in but not the view.
This vine reaches all three floors.
Two of the baths are complete showers with decking floor boards through which the water drains away.
The form of the building and its landscape are sculpted to store, filter, and reuse rainwater. Rooftop planters and vegetable gardens provide thermal protection, storm-water management, an abundance of seasonal food, and a bird’s-eye retreat.
The house’s walkability credentials are supported by nearby shops and public transportation. Integrated bike racks encourage homeowners to skip the car and start pedaling.
Can you see the glass floor in the living room – it’s designed to bring light to the lower level.
A studio space on the ground level.
Located in an established neighborhood of mostly conventional houses, this project provokes a new way of thinking about how we design, build, and live. The house is an integrated part of the landscape, a testimony to building sustainably without sacrificing comfort and beauty.
Photos: Michael Moran
Hidden Valley Residence is a custom prefabricated structure designed for an active couple as a vacation home by Marmol Radziner, located in Moab, Utah. Hidden Valley sits on an open, hundred-acre site punctuated by red rock formations and cliffs in the arid desert. The design of this incredibly designed 2,500 square foot, two bedroom, two bathroom home blends indoor and outdoor living spaces, with expansive decks that are comprised of 1,720 square feet, floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the expansive views, and an open plan.
The primary axis of the main house runs along a rock ledge, creating dramatic views out over the landscape. With three full sides of windows and sliding glass doors, the views in the great room proceed from southern (looking out over the rock ledge) to western (red rock boulder formations), and finally to the northern views of snow-capped mountains in the distance. The guest wing with an exercise room opens up to views of the boulder formations on one side and the mountains on the other.
The structure is comprised of 15 steel-framed modules that were designed and fabricated by the architecture firm’s prefab division at their production facility in Los Angeles. The building form consists of three main branches that cantilever out over a landscape of sandstone ledge. Deep covered decks provide shading, frame views, and link to a guesthouse and exercise space. A geothermal ground loop system coupled with a large solar PV array take advantage of the site’s renewable energy resources.
Photos: Courtesy of Marmol Radziner