Glen Lake Tower is a sustainable retreat completed in 2011 by Balance Associates Architects, located high on a wooded hilltop above a lake in Michigan. The 1,400 square foot house is the result of an inspiring collaboration between architects, clients with a passion for architecture as well as their site, and a skilled local contractor.
Directed to create “a sustainable retreat that reflects the timeless beauty and simple comforts of the area,” the architects responded by raising the primary living space above the dense surrounding woods in order to gain light, air and views of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan beyond. Two fin-like, metal-clad walls rise from the crown of the hill to support a 1400 sf three-story plywood box suspended a full story above grade.
As intricately detailed steel stairs climb the tower, they move from exterior to interior and from more enclosed to more open spaces, culminating in a breathtaking, glass-wrapped kitchen/living/dining space at the fourth level. Here, thirty feet above the ground, the clients enjoy views of the landscape they love, from either the birch-lined interior or expansive cantilevered decks.
Photos: Steve Keating
Barton Hills Residence is a sensational contemporary property designed by A Parallel Architecture, nestled into a hilltop in Barton Hills, South Austin, Texas. This 2,700 square foot new-construction home boasts panoramic views of downtown and the surrounding valley. A half-sunken concrete garage creates a plinth for the wood and glass home to perch above, maintaining a scale and character consistent with the mid-century-modern neighborhood.
An open-plan living space enjoys the distant views as well as private courtyard views to the rear, reinforcing the indoor/outdoor character that the clients’ lifestyle demands.
A second story master suite opens onto a large roof deck that further embraces the vista and creates a flexible outdoor living space. Passive green-building strategies and energy-efficient specifications ensure a low-impact, low-maintenance structure.
Photos: Topher Ayrhart
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
Cascading Creek House is a contemporary single family residence that has been designed by Bercy Chen Studio, located in Austin, Texas. The property was conceived less as a house and more as an extension and outgrowth of the limestone and aquifers of Central Texas. Just recently completed, this 11,796 square foot home incorporates plenty of sustainable features including photovoltaics, rainwater collection and hydronic heating and cooling. The beautiful contemporary design details carried out throughout the home was the meticulous work of Alan Cano Interiors.
The primary formal gesture of the project inserts two long native limestone walls to the sloping site, serving as spines for the public wing and private wing of the house. The walls and the wings they delineate shelter a domesticated landscape that serves as an extended living space oriented towards the creek below and protected from the torrents of water draining from the street above during sudden downpours characteristic of the area.
The sitting of the boundary walls and building elements was informed by the presence and preservation of three mature native oaks. The roof structure is configured so as to create a natural basin for the collection of rainwater, not unlike the vernal pools found in the outcroppings of the Texas Hill Country. These basins harness additional natural flows through the use of photovoltaic and solar hot-water panels.
The water, electricity and heat which are harvested on the roof tie into an extensive climate conditioning system which utilizes water source heat pumps and radiant loops to supply both the heating and cooling for the residence. The climate system is connected to geothermal ground loops as well as pools and water features thereby establishing a system of heat exchange, which minimizes reliance on electricity or gas.
Photos: Bercy Chen Studio
Marra Road House project was designed by Dowling Studios as a weekend home for a family who live in San Francisco, located in Sonoma County, California. The house is located on an 8 acre site, nestled in a unique surrounding of redwood groves, a seasonal creek, grassy meadows and rolling vineyards. The indoor/outdoor living experience was the driving force of the design.
The home is comprised of two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions. The volumes echo architect Philip Johnson’s 1949 Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, though it avoids the 1949 structure’s iconic exhibitionism.
The simply detailed, taut, flat-roofed home’s two wings form a T-shape. One wing runs north to south, parallel to a pool, and contains the open-plan living spaces.
The great room has three walls of floor-to-ceiling Fleetwood sliding doors that open to wide concrete patios shaded by deep roof overhangs. The doors allow easy indoor-outdoor living and provide remarkably efficient “air-conditioned” spaces on even the hottest days, while a two-sided interior-exterior fireplace makes the north patio a winter favorite.
A large central great room forms the center of the house and is surrounded on three sides with full height sliding doors. The great room is wrapped by a covered patio and opens on to a pool, outdoor living room with fireplace, and an outdoor dining area with vineyard and forest views.
The other wing contains a master suite, a children’s room with bunk beds, and a studio that doubles as a guest room. A limited palette of wood, concrete, and metal; solar and radiant heating systems; and efficient construction methods all work together to exceed California’s stringent energy codes by 15 percent.
Sustainable design was a high priority, with the use of a solar powered radiant concrete floor and domestic hot water system, a PV solar system for electricity, and solar pool heating. Sustainable products such as reconstituted wood for cabinetry, low VOC paints, and 100% wool carpet were integrated into the design as well. This project was completed in 2012.
Photos: Courtesy of Dowling Studios
Chicago Residence is a modern home built for a family that showcases a sophisticated selection of materials and architecture, designed by Dirk Denison Architects, located in Chicago, Illinois. The residence maintains the urban townhouse relationship with its neighbors. Dynamic spatial relationships are created through overlapping materials and the layering of interior and exterior. Visual connections are created from indoor spaces and passages to garden terraces, outdoor landscaping and the adjacent park. Fine articulation and craft of a simple yet rich palette comprise restrained minimal spaces that emphasize the family’s activities, artwork and extensive fish collection in large, integrated aquariums.
From the entrance up through three floors to the roof deck terraces the main stair is the vertical core of the home. At the top of the stair a large light monitor allows natural light deep into the building, while a railing of stainless steel and translucent glazing reflect and diffuse the light, adding to the dynamics of the space. A central pendant light fixture composed of many silken cords each holding a lamp, stretch throughout the stairway, lighting one’s path upward through the home. The solid ash of the floor carries through to the treads of the stair, further connecting each level.
The home utilizes sustainable and environmentally friendly materials and technologies such as green roof systems, automated shade controls, geothermal heating and cooling, a highly insulated building envelope, and low VOC-emission substrates. Windows are fabricated with insulated, low-e coated glazing, with an additional UV film installed on its interior pane. In addition, the outer pane of glass consists of two laminated glass layers, adding to the insulating quality of the glazing while minimizing exterior sound absorption. The shifting volumes and primary southern exposure maximize daylighting throughout the home, minimizing the family’s dependence on artificial lighting. The building’s products and materials inform a responsible and enduring design.
Photos: The Michelle Litvin Studio
Hudson Woods is a unique collection of locally sourced dwellings designed by Lang Architecture, located in the Hudson River Valley, Kerhonkson, New York. Developed, designed and built by the architecture team, Hudson Woods offers modern, sustainable design at exceptional value to buyers. This project is scheduled for completion in 2016.
100 miles from New York City, 26 modern, refined and energy efficient homes on large lots are nestled into the forests and meadows of the 131-acre site. With an emphasis on responsible land use, including active forest management and on-site agriculture, Hudson Woods aims to nurture and protect the extraordinary natural beauty of the region. With a diverse offering of options, including a wood-burning stove, outdoor cooking, greenhouse, tree house and more, residents can assemble their own vision of a retreat into nature.
Humble and private upon approach, the simple vernacular house form fits sensitively into the topography of each site. Once inside, expansive views to the surrounding landscape are framed through custom mahogany windows. The interior is modern and warm, with an abundance of local white oak surfaces and details. Throughout the home, craft is on display from solid wood doors with sand cast bronze hardware to custom freestanding kitchen island and pantry units produced in collaboration with local craftsmen.
Photos: Courtesy of Lang Architecture
+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
Casa Atrevida is a luxurious, environmentally friendly vacation retreat designed by Luz de Piedra Arquitectos, located on a woodsy private refuge on the shores of the breathtaking Playa Preciosa, in Puerto Jimenez, the largest town on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.
You can stay at this luxury beachfront property surrounded by a forest abundant with exotic animals, with rates starting at $315 per night, sleeping 10, from here.
This unique 3,229 square foot (300 square meters) house is environmentally friendly, made from bamboo (Guadua), as a structural material for earthquake resistance. Attractive material, from a short cycle of growth, therefore, with a smaller ecological footprint in this environment so rich into biodeversity matters. A roof garden is used to cool down and improve the integration to the landscape from the second level.
The retreat is constructed in a modern tropical style, and was designed to be perfectly integrated into the beautiful natural surroundings.
Guests are sure to have a memorable experience thanks to the immense natural beauty of the region, the personalized service, and an experience designed for your utmost comfort.
This is a recreational house, with it´s own carekeepers studio. It was made with Bambu(Guadua) as the structural element, designed to be seismic resistant. An atractive material that has a short growing cycle, thus reducing carbon footprint in a forested area.
The house has five bedrooms and can accommodate a maximum of ten people. Each bedroom has a walk-in closet and a private bathroom. All of the bedrooms are stylishly decorated and are furnished with a desk or vanity.
The four bedrooms on the second level are identical and have views of the garden/terrace and the treetops around the house. Two of the bedrooms are furnished with two twin-sized beds. The other two are each furnished with a queen-sized bed. All rooms are protected from insects by mosquito nets or mashrabiyas so that you can fully take advantage of the natural beauty that the property has to offer.
The fifth bedroom, which is located on the ground floor, is a luxurious master bedroom. Furnished with a king-sized bed, a spacious bathroom, and a desk, the master bedroom includes wonderful views of the natural surroundings. Each bedroom comes equipped with a ceiling fan. The kitchen is fully equipped. The kitchen/dining room/living room area is designed to be a comfortable interior with beautiful views of the exterior to optimize your experience.
Photos: Sergio Pucci
The Cluny House is a cozy and luxurious yet sustainable family home that has been designed by Guz Architects, situated in Singapore. The residence demonstrates how technology, planning and design can be applied sensitively to generate a comfortable, luxurious, yet sustainable family home.
Photovoltaic cells and solar water heaters are employed together with design for passive cooling and cross ventilation to reduce energy usage. Irrigation tanks and roof gardens collect and recycle rainwater; and the use of materials such as recycled teak and artificial timber adds warmth without compromising the finite resources of our environment.
The house is laid out around a central water court that forms the focal point of the project. Lushly planted roof gardens surround this and add to the effect that nature is evident in every part of the house.
Although the house is high tech – using state of the art EIB systems, photovoltaic cells, security systems – these are integrated discreetly and work with the natural environment of the house rather than against it.
This integration of technology and nature deserves special mention in a compelling design that could realistically become the model for sustainable living.
Photos: Patrick Bingham Hall
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