The Syncline house was designed as a place of solitude for a professional couple by architecture studio Arch11, located near Boulder, Colorado. Situated at the fold between the Rocky Mountain foothills and the Great Plains, the house mediates horizons and peaks, city and alpine meadows. Conceived as a frame for viewing the landscape, Arch11 meticulously modeled the residence within the site to ensure that planes of glass capture ridgetop views while respecting the city’s height restrictions.
A Pre-Paleozoic fold creates a distinction between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain Foothills. Geologically referred to as a syncline, a crease caused by uplift of an ancient sea bed, the fold distinguishes the inhabited plains from mountain park space. The upward plane of the fold presents a landscape described and observed moving sectionally through the house.
The wedge shaped site was bound by numerous restrictive land use limitations: a wetland buffer, height restrictions, a solar access restriction, and multiple setback and easement boundary requirements. A three-dimensional computer model was developed describing the limits of the buildable envelope.
The project was conceived as a threshold between the city and the mountain park. The client, an entrepreneurial and professional rock climbing couple, requested the house to be “a place where town life can be left behind.” The house is a threshold between both the cultural and geologic creases: one between the domestic and the feral, the other between horizontal and vertical. Through a domestic grove of flowering trees, a solid wood wall, broken only by a perpendicular stone wall, opens to the house interior. Once inside, the stone wall becomes a thickened poche of mechanical and service elements leading through to the west wall of the house, a glazed wall framing the mountain parks.
The western wall phenomenally erodes, revealing the landscape with varying degrees of openness. At the entry, framed apertures provide controlled vignettes of the landscape from foreground meadow to high ground cliffs. As the entry opens to the living spaces the apertures transform in scale to reveal the expansive landscape in its entirety. At the southwest corner thirty feet of glass retracts into the walls, dissolving the boundary between the domestic and the wild; the living spaces are then bounded only by the uplifted cliffs beyond. Reciprocally, the native meadow to the west folds onto the garage roof providing easy outdoor access for visiting guests in the house’s guest suite.
A simple stair cantilevers from the stone wall. Climbing the stairs, the foreground, mid range, and ridge views are sequentially revealed. Experientially scissoring into the landscape and back into the house the stairs connect the mountain park with the house. The west wall of glazing extends the western room boundaries to the wall of rock and meadows beyond. The east wall remains closed, allowing only privileged, controlled views and light from the clerestory above.
Working within some of the strictest energy performance codes in the country, the house is designed to be self sustained utilizing a ground loop heat exchange system that taps into the very bedrock seen at the distant ridge. A ten kilovolt photo-voltaic electrical system powers pumps, compressors and the domestic electrical needs.
To support an envelope comprised of 50% glazing, a structural steel frame is used in place of traditional stick framing throughout the home. The western facade was challenged by height and wind exposure. The thickened wall is a steel brace frame that incorporates vertical vierendeel trusses to resist the 120 mile per hour winds coming down out of the mountains. Additionally, it accommodates the primary vertical mechanical chases.
Built with innovative renewable energy systems and materials crafted to last centuries, the house is a model of cutting-edge sustainable design and attains a LEED gold certification. Roof gardens allow the land to literally envelop the house, and expansive, retracting glass walls provide full views of the Flatirons to the west while connecting interiors with outdoor rooms. Executed with uncompromising detail, surfaces meet with quiet precision, creating a serene background for the landscape and mountains beyond.
Photos: Courtesy of Arch11
+2edison7 is a stunning renovated LEED platinum residence by Studio 27 Architecture, located at the corner of 27th and Edison Street in Arlington, Virginia. Before the renovation, the home was a modest, two-story colonial, built in the post-war moment when houses were small and cars were large. Today, this mid-century residence is a graceful composition of brick, glass and wood-accented rain screen known as +2edison7—Studio Twenty Seven Architecture’s playfully disjunctive name for this high-performing renovation with humble bones.
As the personal home of one of the principals at Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, this home was a design and research project that sought to revitalize a typical suburban residential building with modern amenities and sustainable retrofits while adjusting the building’s spacial program to account for site conditions and orientation. The renovation more than doubled the volume of the original building, from 1,300 square feet to 2,800 square feet; yet its systems operate at more than 60 percent greater efficiency than before.
The stairway draws inspiration from the way that light dapples down through two maple trees which were on the site. A photo of the maple leaves was adapted to a pixelated contrast pattern and then translated to a template for milling machine, which then milled the wood.
Despite substantially up-sizing the house, the architect’s research led the firm to maintain the neighborhood scale as a reference point. Working off of the existing masonry core, the architects realigned and expanded the home away from the public street and towards the quiet of its garden. The density and rhythm of the neighborhood suggested a design based around scale modulation and precise viewpoints. The house massing builds from the scale of the original core, and a new addition up top opens the house to the site situation. Each window was carefully located to mediate the public-private threshold of the site, focusing on the most compelling views yet allowing privacy and capitalizing on daylighting. The result is a house that is open, capacious and airy from the inside, but discreet and slightly introverted from the exterior.
Sustainable strategies further reduced resource consumption, including energy-efficient LED and CFL lighting, and ENERGY STAR appliances and ceiling fans. To minimize water use, dual-flush and low-flow toilets are used, and showers and faucets are equipped with low-flow aeration devices. Water usage for this single-family home has been cut in half. Additionally, the house’s original wood floors were salvaged, and supplemental flooring was provided by sustainably and regionally harvested forest providers associated with FSC. Countertops are recycled porcelain, glass and mirrors suspended within an epoxy resin. The exterior is a palette of durable, low-maintenance and high recycled content products such as integral color cement board and epoxy resin color panels. Reduced care requirements on products ultimately reduce continued chemical and manufacturing requirements, while also allowing the homeowners to spend more time in their garden.
The home has garnered multiple certifications, including USGBC’s LEED BD+C: Homes v3 Platinum and Home Innovation Research Labs (HIRL, formerly the NAHB Research Center) National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Gold Level. It is also certified as an EPA ENERGY STAR New Home, EPA Indoor airPLUS home, and locally at the Gold level in the Arlington County Green Home Choice award. Finally, the yard is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat. Indeed, +2edison7 may hold more sustainability accolades than any post-war tract home in the mid-Atlantic.
Photos: Courtesy of Studio 27 Architecture
Hupomone Ranch is a certified LEED Platinum project designed by Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects, nestled on 150 acres in the Chileno Valley, just west of downtown Petaluma, a city in Sonoma County, California. The ranch is an original homestead that had been neglected for over 30 years and the owners wanted to build a family house that would reflect their commitment to sustainable farming, draw on the natural serenity of the site and build on the sense of place in western Petaluma where farming and ranching are still a part of people’s daily lives.
The site has a wonderful balanced quality to it, and the simple grounded form of the barn is sited to compliment this setting and capture the long views to the coastal range beyond. Entering a low porch on the more opaque north side under the loft above, the light-filled house opens up to the expansive view of Sonoma hills to the south and gathers the bedrooms and kitchen to either side.
The house is certified LEED Platinum and features a number of energy saving features exceeding title 24 by over 50 percent. Passive heating and cooling with thermal mass and insulation, Geothermal, radiant cooling and heating along with solar and photovoltaic panels contribute to the house’s energy efficiency. All materials for the project also had to meet specific guidelines, such as lumber that had been sustainably harvested , products produced within a certain distance from the project, or a specified percentage of recycled content.
An integral part of the design, the landscaping by Lutsko Associates includes several outdoor living areas, organized along a riparian restoration and native plantings. To tie it all together, Erin Martin’s interiors compliment the flow of indoor/outdoor living.
Photos: David Wakely
The Confluence House is the primary residence designed by Incorporated Architecture for a young couple in Harlemville, New York. The home has been developed for the award of a LEED rating for residential construction by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The form and orientation of the house is optimized to enhance heat gain in the winter and keep the house cool in the summer. Cross ventilation moves through the transom windows on either side of the house. Other green aspects of the home include solar panels, environmentally friendly kitchen cabinets, FSC certified windows and doors, bamboo floors, low flow plumbing fixtures, recycled glass tile, low VOC paints and sealants, and soy based insulation. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were also engineered to comply with the LEED rating system and Energy Star for Homes system.
Photos: Courtesy of Incorporated Architecture
A House in the Woods is a certified LEED Silver house designed by William Reue Architecture, located on a densely forested lot at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains, New York. Nestled on 8.5 acres, the 4,800 square foot residence is the result of the studied relationship between two opposing geometries – a long sculptural wall clad in weathering steel and a mass of stratified bluestone that appears to have emerged from the boulder-strewn earth. Locally-sourced materials and strategic siting stitch the house into the natural world while contributing to its sustainability for the modern one.
The design for A House in the Woods was grounded in the owner’s desire to build an artful home that responded to her values of order, beauty, and environmental stewardship. The structure’s uncomplicated geometry is enriched by the boldness of its materials, resulting in a balanced composition that is both sensuous and refined. The house is a personal refuge that takes its design cues from the colors and textures of the natural landscape.
The site boundary is defined by a series of Norway spruces, the singular element guiding visitors to the secluded entrance. The curved Cor-Ten wall is heroic, yet pragmatically justified as it carves a modest entry court that amplifies the sound of the stream running parallel to the house. The wall also operates as a spine that organizes the interior spaces into a series of cinematic portals to the landscape. The character of the minimalist interior is profoundly impacted by the changes of the wooded site from season to season.
The high performance thermal envelope consists of 14 inch thick Structural Insulated Panels and quadruple-pane windows constructed with FSC-certified wood. The house employs a direct-exchange geothermal heating system, energy recovery ventilator (ERV), rainwater harvesting system, and many other sustainable building technologies. With a HERS Index of 44, A House in the Woods is over 55% more energy efficient than a typical new home. The project was certified LEED-Silver in February 2013.
Photos: Steve Freihon
Caruth Boulevard Residence is a modern LEED Gold designed home by owner and architect Tom Reisenbichler, located in Dallas, Texas. When the architect built his 8,300 square foot family dream home, he was determined to prove that being environmentally friendly does not have to rule out luxury. “You can do luxury without being wasteful,” says Tom Reisenbichler, an architect with Perkins+Will who primarily designs hospitals and medical buildings. There is no shortage of either eco-friendly strategies in this three-story home, from photovoltaic solar panels on the roof to flooring made from recycled television tubes and countertops of recycled mirror glass, materials were chosen carefully; ninety percent of them are recycled or reclaimed.
In our world where many associate sustainable (green) design with a bohemian lifestyle, while others consider luxury wasteful, this house is designed to prove they are not exclusive. Integrated tightly into the large iconic trees on the site, this house uses traditional home proportions to blend with the neighborhood. The horizontal lines of the design tie the home to the land, while the roof and balcony reach into the trees making them integral to the home.
The design concepts emphasize the entertaining lifestyle of the owner / architect, with open plans that integrate indoor and outdoor spaces. The first level uses a central core (wooden box) as the main organizing element around which public spaces flow. This LEED Gold designed home features many sustainable strategies, from photovoltaic solar panels and recycled materials to native plants that are drought tolerant, every detail of sustainability is considered.
The couple, who entertain frequently and have welcomed nearly 3,000 guests since they moved into the University Park house last January, made sure that the residence works for gatherings both large and intimate. With its open concept, expansive rooms and walls of glass that slide open to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces, the first floor is a hostess’ dream.
What really wows guests, Reisenbichler says, is when they flip up the wood panel on the living room wall to create a serving bar from the wine room off the kitchen. Opposite the bar is another showstopper: an 8-foot-long gas fireplace that is positioned halfway up a stone wall. “It appeals to so many people, even if they’re not a modernist,” Reisenbichler says.
The spare design and hard lines of the architecture are softened by visual textures, richly colored rugs and warm wood walls, including teak that was salvaged from a monastery in Thailand.
“Most of the home’s finishes are pretty neutral,” Reisenbichler says. “It’s the art and furnishings that bring life to the space.” The art, including oversize sculptural pieces, canvases and African jewelry, is a collection of memories from the family’s travels juxtaposed with works from North Texas artists.
The six-bedroom, 10-bath house, includes mother-in-law quarters on the second floor. Rooms are full of sleek leather furniture, chrome accents, animal hides and graphic prints.
Photos: Bret Janak
The Hollywood Hybrid home has been designed by Marmol Radziner, located in the Hollywood Hills above Runyon Canyon, California. Set into a sharply down-sloping site, the home required substantial foundation work, including the construction of a large retaining wall. The resulting home combines prefab with site built construction. The ground floor is comprised of two large rooms built into the foundation while the two stories above are entirely prefab.
A long pool runs parallel to the house, overlooking Runyon Canyon. Two levels of decks and large sliding glass doors make the views accessible from every level of the home. The residence is targeted for LEED gold certification.
Responsible materials are used throughout, from the insulated glass to the denim jean insulation. Solar panels generate electricity and can feed excess power back into the grid. Decks, large sliding glass doors, and well-placed shading devices allow for cooling cross ventilation and seamless indoor-outdoor living.
Photos: Courtesy of Marmol Radziner
The Kerchum Residence is a perfect mix of modern home design and sustainability designed by Natural Balance Home Builders in Vancouver, British Columbia. The home is located on an unsuspecting street in Vancouver’s Dunbar neighborhood, is the first LEED Platinum single-family residence in Western Canada. The home features clean, modern lines that distinguish it from the surrounding craftsman-style homes, yet with a proportion and scale that feels right at home on this quiet West Side street.
Photos: Courtesy of Natural Balance Home Builders
This incredible home designed by Gardner Mohr Architects is situated near Annapolis, Maryland and began with an unremarkable 1980s brick rambler on a spectacular site overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. The clients had two goals: to create views of the Bay from as many rooms as possible, and to build the most “green” house the budget would bear. The project has achieved LEED Gold certification. Dramatic views are featured from every room except the foyer and secondary baths were achieved with an open floor plan, large windows and a 2-story living room over which loft rooms have a view the Bay.
The owner’s sustainability goals were met by using passive as well as active strategies. Passive strategies include ventilation, daylighting and shading controls. Water conservation and harvesting are achieved through low-flow fixture selection, collection and reuse of rainwater, the infiltration of 100% of the storm water on site, and the construction of a “living shoreline” for breeding of aquatic life. Materials were chosen for a minimal impact on the environment.
Geothermal heat pumps provide cooling, radiant floor heating and domestic hot water. A high-performance building envelope consists of an R-55 roof with a white membrane, R-36 vented rain screen walls and triple low-e coated window glass. Energy Star appliances and lighting further help to reduce energy consumption, and a photovoltaic solar power plant provides electricity which can be consumed on site or “sold” back to the grid.
Photos: Cheryl Mohr