Two architecture firms joined forces to create a winning entry in the Green Building Design Competition for New York City. The Regenerative Row House, which won first place in the single-family houses category, is the brainchild of Studio 27 Architecture and Inscape Studio, both of Washington, D.C. Their design pulls the past into the not too distant future and is flexible enough to slip into a tight city lot or be made in multiples by a developer.

Studio 27, with technological input from Inscape, equipped the row house with elements that give back to a city's infrastructure. Rain flowing from the roof is collected in an underground cistern and reused. Atop the house, clerestories are crowned with solar panels and set over the stairwell, funneling light and energy to the lowest levels. Gardens, as low tech as they are, add options for sustainability. In addition to the backyard, part of the sod roof is given over to growing food or bamboo. Studio 27 principal Todd Ray, AIA, says the row house could be developed on its own, or in four-block sections, or as a cooperative. “As a single unit or over four city blocks, bamboo could create a blind for privacy,” he says. “If you developed it as a coop, the bamboo could be harvested and sold as a collective fund.”

The semi-kinetic floor plan and facade adapt to a site's orientation to the sun. Creating an abstract composition, the architects fitted the front of the house with insulated concrete panels and photovoltaic glass. The transparent glass, embedded with cells that generate electricity, is the only technology on this row house that's speculative. In a coop situation, “you could link all the photovoltaic arrays and generate a storehouse of energy,” Ray says. The house's future is uncertain, as Studio 27 looks for a site and funding.