Sustainability meets coastal luxury in these six townhouses near downtown Santa Monica, Calif. While the environmental label is almost a commodity these days, builder/developer Steven Lappin made sure the $1.2+ million homes, dubbed 21st at Montana, paid more than lip service to sustainability.

The project, located 20 blocks from the Pacific Ocean, is awaiting two credentials: the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes-Gold and GreenPoint Rated status from California’s Build It Green program. “We felt it was important to differentiate ourselves from other builders by offering something unique,” says Lappin, president of Pacific Cove Development.

The project team, which included Los Angeles architect William Hefner, AIA

, combed every LEED category for points. Smart siting and well-positioned windows and doors provided a solid basis for energy and daylighting credits. Set on an infill lot, the stucco-clad townhouses are oriented along a roughly east-west axis to optimize natural light and passive solar heating and cooling. Ranging from 991 to 1,745 square feet, the interiors are compact, but airy and open. In the first-floor living spaces, the end walls of most units open to patios on the north and south to allow for cross ventilation and outdoor seating; others have access to individual 300-square-foot roof decks.

Sleek, easy-to-maintain interior products and finishes were chosen with an eye toward resource conservation and healthy indoor air. The units are outfitted with Energy Star-qualified appliances and ceiling fans, full-height glass patio doors that fold away, WaterSense-qualified kitchen and bath fixtures, dual-flush toilets, CFL and LED lights, carbonized strand bamboo floors, and low-formaldehyde European cabinetry.

But the bucks stops—and starts--behind those pristine finishes. Features such as a high-efficiency gas and electric HVAC system, bio-based EcoBatt and blown-in insulation, A.O. Smith hybrid hot water heaters, and a 12.69-kW photovoltaic array add up to energy performance that exceeds Title 24 standards by 40%. Anticipating a time when there will be more electric cars on the road, the private subterranean garages are pre-wired for 240-volt charging stations.

Outdoors, a stormwater mitigation system keeps excess rainfall out of city sewers, and drought-tolerant landscaping keeps water bills low. The hardy native plantings, which in California dictate an understated blue-gray, olive-green, and silver color scheme, helped inform the building’s white and gray exterior. “We wanted it to be a complete palette,” Hefner says.
“Our main goal was to make the homes LEED-certified and sustainable, but also really pretty,” he adds. “We wanted the design to be as strong as the performance.”

Cheryl Weber is a writer in Lancaster, Pa.