The environmental arguments against owning a second (or third) home seem irrefutable. An extra house perforce consumes extra building resources and operating energy, not to mention the fossil fuels used for transportation to and from the beach, mountains, or countryside. But the flip side of this view is that humans need contact with nature—more contact than most of us can get in our daily lives in the cities or suburbs. Spending the weekends immersed in a beautiful natural environment can spur a greater understanding of our need to protect and conserve it.

The team behind Lost Rock, a vacation home community in the Ozark Mountains of northwestern Arkansas, is taking the latter approach. Fayetteville, Ark., developers Morgan Hooker and Ward Davis have lined up Marlon Blackwell Architect of Fayetteville, Frank Harmon Architect of Raleigh, N.C., and buildingstudio of New Orleans to create a low-impact neighborhood on 160 lakeside acres. The project's 57 houses will be relatively small, some as diminutive as 950 square feet—and none will come with garages. “The houses will have fewer bedrooms and more bunk alcoves, so the owners can accommodate guests,” says Marlon Blackwell, AIA. “They'll deliver more space for living in rather than sleeping.” Instead of evenly spacing the homes, the master plan (by landscape designer Stuart Fulbright, in conjunction with the developers) clusters them in pods, leaving more open space for the community to enjoy.

Before designing Lost Rock's prototypes, Blackwell, Frank Harmon, FAIA, and buildingstudio's Coleman Coker met up for a series of two-day charrettes on the site. “I can't emphasize [enough] how important that was,” Harmon says. The resulting buildings will sit lightly on their sloped sites, with minimal excavation. Their vernacular cabin architecture calls for organic elements like wood and stone, and the developers also hope to use recyclable materials with long life cycles. Natural ventilation will cool each house. “The goal was to capture the prevailing breeze from the south as it rolled up the Ozark Valley,” Harmon adds. Native landscaping and options for solar panels, geothermal heat, and green roofs will enhance Lost Rock's sustainable standing.

Residents will be able to take advantage of the area's natural assets through planned hiking trails, boat docks, and community pavilions equipped with kitchens and baths. Even an outdoor amphitheater is in the works. Currently Lost Rock is in the planning approval stage, and construction is expected to start on the first models this summer. For more information on the project, visit www.lostrockranch.com.