6 Awe-Inspiring Homes

Cape Schanck House

Green building continues to evolve apace, spurred by interest in reducing resource use and carbon emissions, and the desire to provide more comfortable, beautiful and productive homes and offices that facilitate a connection with nature. The Obama administration has earmarked millions of dollars for energy-efficiency programs, the U.S. Green Building Council is exploding and state and local governments are passing incentive packages, or in some cases even mandating green building codes. Innovative architects are experimenting with cheap modular homes, buildings made of used shipping containers or even airplane parts or discarded bottles. The good news is not all green homes are pricey eco-palaces; efficient, non-toxic structures are being constructed for lower income residents in places like post-Katrina New Orleans and Harlem.

New Green Homes by Sergi Costa Duran and others is a fresh follow-up to the influential Green Homes. Here we look at some of the most inspirational designs from the book's pages, with an eye to what's possible if we think outside of the standard 2x4 box.

Inverness House

Perched on a steep slope above Tomales Bay in Inverness, California, this unique home was inspired by the rustic character of its surroundings. Designed by Studios Architecture to flow with the natural contours of the hillside, the house is flooded with natural light. It is made with locally sourced pine and takes advantage of passive solar heating and cooling, supplemented with efficient (and cozy!) radiant floors. The 1,840-square foot home also features water-saving technology.

X House

Many of the designs showcased in New Green Homes clearly pay homage to Phillip Johnson's iconic Glass House, which is now more than 50 years old. Yet the goal of creating more seamless integration with the surrounding environment, as well as leaving a smaller footprint, are clearly as relevant as ever. The 4,090-square foot X House near Quito, Ecuador is like an expanded, updated Glass House, oriented around a central courtyard.

Designed by Arquitectura X, the X House is recyclable, and features water-saving fixtures and efficient evaporative cooling.

Holman House

High atop a 230-foot seaside cliff outside Sydney, Australia, the 3,498-square foot Holman House is a palace fit for a rock star. The plan is open, maximizing the benefits of sunlight and sea breezes. The concrete core acts as a thermally insulated box, reducing need for heating, even in the mild climate. The lower areas are of rough stone, blending into the local rock. The interior furnishings are natural materials.


The views from inside the Holman House are spectacular, facilitated by the curved glass, which was molded at high temperature. The furniture is made of local and certified wood, and the style is austere, to leave the focus on the sea.

Joanopolis House
At the foot of mountains outside Sao Paulo, Brazil, Una Arquitetos designed a 4,670-square foot home that blends into the natural setting, instead of dominating it. The house features three patios, a roof garden, rainwater collection and local stone walls. Unnecessary finishes were avoided, the bathrooms are clustered together to make them more efficient, and the home takes advantage of passive energy. It is oriented to maximize cross ventilation.

Rochedale House

The 4,110-square foot Rochedale House in Brentwood, California was designed by Ray Kappe for Living Homes, a company that specializes in steel-frame prefab home. That makes them more efficient and cost-effective to build than traditional construction. The home's modules can be assembled in just three days. The project was done in partnership with Wired magazine, and achieved LEED Gold green building certification from the USGBC.

The home boasts great indoor air quality, high energy and water efficiency and photovoltaic solar power. At the end of its life 76% of the home's material can be readily recycled.

There are many other awe-inspiring designs featured in New Green Homes. While you may not have the funds to build your own eco-mansion, or even want something large or showy, there is still plenty of inspiration to be gleaned for the rest of us. Remember, you don't have to build from scratch to go green, you can also renovate what you already have, and make changes gradually. It's an exciting time for green architecture!

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