The owners of this cottage sought to savor the water, the picturesque convergence of the Hull Creek and Potomac River into the Chesapeake Bay. In response, architect Rick Harlan Schneider, principal of Washington, D.C.–based Inscape Studio, designed a 2,000-square-foot pier house that preserves the vital resource and view-maker. “So often people go to a beautiful place and destroy the very thing that makes it beautiful,” says Schneider, who recently won an AIA Young Architect's Award for his dedication to environmentally sensitive work. “Green architecture for us is about respecting the site.”

Credit: Inscape Studio

Many facets of the project attempt to protect surrounding wetlands and estuaries, most notable among them is the use of rainwater as its exclusive water source. Gutters and downspouts on the butterfly roof will drive water into an underground cistern. And pumping and filtration systems will convert it into an ample, potable water supply—enough to sustain two nature-lovers year round.