Imagine a cluster of 30 or so diminutive homes set on the edge of a large field, their compact rectangles topped with tilted roofs and punctuated with bright apple-green or ochre siding. This new crop of farmworker housing, designed by the Seattle firm Mithun, will soon grace two farms in Washington's Skagit Valley. But they're not just comfortable, stylish places for seasonal laborers to relax after a hard day in the orchards. Dubbed “light green,” “green,” and “bright green,” the three modular prototypes offer increasing levels of environmentally friendly methods and materials. The bright green model makes as much energy as it uses; all three offer flexible indoor and outdoor spaces for four people.

The 580-square-foot dwellings both nod to and update the utilitarian self-sufficiency of farm buildings. The project team's top priority was to provide comfort through shading, ventilation, and a semiprivate outdoor space attached to the house. “Most farmworker housing is fairly rudimentary—there's a door to the outside, and you're in common space on grass or dirt,” explains principal Richard Franko, AIA, LEED AP. That airiness, and a color palette that pops, makes treasures out of simple boxes. “We want them to project a positive image,” he says.