Launch Slideshow

row homes on f, san diego, calif.

Architect Kevin DeFreitas wanted to avoid a condo project in downtown San Diego, fraught with lawsuits brought by homeowner associations, yet maximize the number of dwellings on this pricey piece of land. The solution: walls of tilt-up, 5-inch-thick concrete panels. They have 3 inches of airspace between them, qualifying the project for single-family status.

row homes on f, san diego, calif.

Architect Kevin DeFreitas wanted to avoid a condo project in downtown San Diego, fraught with lawsuits brought by homeowner associations, yet maximize the number of dwellings on this pricey piece of land. The solution: walls of tilt-up, 5-inch-thick concrete panels. They have 3 inches of airspace between them, qualifying the project for single-family status.

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    lt. to rt.: first, second, third floors

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    Carol Peerce

    To enliven the elevations, DeFreitas conceived them as "innies and outies, like bellybuttons." The glass bays are opaque on the bottom and clear on the top.

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    Carol Peerce

    Businesses occupy the first floor of five of the buildings, providing another layer of eyes for security during the day. Sidewalk plantings and elevated stoops help to keep the street facades friendly.

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    Carol Peerce

    Wood floors, stairs, and doors create a warm counterpoint to the exposed concrete tilt-up walls, which sped up the construction process and are virtually maintenancefree forever. The open floor plan lets daylight penetrate from front to back.

kevin defreitas architects, san diego

What started out as a series of defensive moves became selling points in the design of this speculative infill project. Architect Kevin DeFreitas wanted to avoid a condo project in downtown San Diego, fraught with lawsuits brought by homeowner associations, yet maximize the number of dwellings on this pricey piece of land. The solution: walls of tilt-up, 5-inch-thick concrete panels. They have 3 inches of airspace between them, qualifying the project for single-family status. At 16 feet, 4 inches wide, three row houses were shoehorned onto each 50-foot-wide parcel, achieving a density of 42 units per acre.

The industrial aesthetic slips easily into this urban neighborhood. DeFreitas enlivened the street by painting some of the bays in primary colors and designing large overhangs and elevated stoops. A flex room on the ground level provides the option for a home-based business. On the top floor, clerestory windows and a thermal chimney draw in light and fresh air. "If you live in a high-rise condo, homeowner association fees can run $500 a month," DeFreitas says. "This project is meant to appeal to first-time buyers."

The homes' low energy costs also appeal to such buyers. The thick, maintenance-free concrete is thermally efficient and won't harbor mold. It also creates a superior sound barrier. The result is a litigation-proof package that's easy to live in and maintain. The judges were impressed with the smart materials and design. "It's all about multifamily living," they agreed. 

principal in charge/project architect/land planner: Kevin deFreitas, AIA, Kevin deFreitas Architects
developer: Sebastian+deFreitas, Pauma Valley, Calif.
general contractor: Lusardi Construction, San Marcos, Calif.
landscape architect: Aerea, San Diego
interior designer: Kevin deFreitas
project size: 960 to 1,980 square feet per unit
site size: 0.40 acre
construction cost: $142 per square foot
sales price: $307,200 to $633,600
units in project: 17
photographer: Carol Peerce