Favorite Big House with a Big View

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    Credit: Cristian Costea

This 7,000-square-foot house has an independent streak. It can make its own fresh water from the sea, and it can heat that water for the faucets and the 60-foot infinity swimming pool by solar power. All that practicality took no toll on its looks, however. Sitting on a foundation built on carefully cut terraces overlooking the Pacific, it sports a jaunty chili-pepper red steel-trowel stucco, quartz stone work, and retractable glass doors that open wide to the view. Radiant heat floors in the kitchen and bathrooms help quell the chill of hearty Pacific breezes. Other environmental considerations include toilets that use saltwater and synthetic turf.

Favorite Tip-Toe Over the Environment House


A creek runs beneath this Cincinnati house with an airborne foundation that treads lightly on the site. Neighborhood covenants required that the creek in this neighborhood remain undisturbed, so John Senhauser Architect and Allen Builders & Remodelers built a 4,850-square-foot house over the 40-foot creek bed. The 23-foot-wide home also has a lawn on its roof to spare trees on the former arboretum site that would have been felled for a squarer home. The few walnut trees that were cut for the construction were milled into flooring. The home's red tide-water cypress skin is counterbalanced with large expanses of glass including a double-tall window wall that opens onto an 80-foot cantilevered deck. The light footprint and creek spanning took a 9,000-pound, 66-foot-long cambered steel beam that required special permission to truck to the site.

Favorite House From a Box or Boxes

  • Four Boxes and a Roof The net-zero Great Diamond features double 2x4 stud walls, creating ample insulation space and a thermal break.

    Credit: Trent Bell

    Four Boxes and a Roof The net-zero Great Diamond features double 2x4 stud walls, creating ample insulation space and a thermal break.

This house is assembled from four road-ready boxes trucked to the site in Maine and a panelized third-story with dormers. Visitors would never guess that most of it came from a factory, and it provides a custom home that’s energy efficient at a near–production home price of $139 a square foot, including a photovoltaic system. The Great Diamond, created through a partnership of Kaplan Thompson Architects and Keiser Homes, is a hybrid between a custom home and basic modular products. The 1,680-square-foot home started life as a stick-built house for carbon-conscious clients. The box-like New England form was then converted into four rectangular modules, two each for the first and second floors, topped by the panelized attic/roof. It’s clad in fiber-cement siding, includes triple-glazed windows, and has sun-protecting overhangs.

Favorite Dorm

  • Builders Choice 2011Bastyr University Student Housing, Kenmore, Wash.

    Credit: CollinsWoerman/Lara Swimmer

    Bastyr University Student Housing, Kenmore, Wash.

Rather than build the traditional multi-story brick dormitory for Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, CollinsWoerman decided to break the housing for 10 students into individual units. The resulting dorms are a beautiful collection of light-filled cottages that together form a village of student housing. While it might seem like a more expensive proposition, consider that corridors, multiple stairwells, and elevators are eliminated from the design. The new student housing model is comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient. The project was moved from the first proposed site, which would have displaced 180 parking spots and a large number of trees. In between the cottages are gardens planted with medicinal herbs and fruit. The butterfly roofs and bio-filtration swales manage and purify rainwater before returning it to an adjoining wetland.