2008 has reached its end and it can certainly be said that it was a year full of big changes, including the dramatic end of the housing boom. Over the past decade, easy credit led Americans to spend $4.7 trillion on home building, raising housing prices to astronomical and ultimately unsustainable heights. Because 2008 marked the end of this unprecedented era in the housing industry, the Wall Street Journal asked me and a few colleagues to compile a list of the five most influential and inspiring houses built during the last decade of the housing boom. As I began pondering the options for the WSJ list, I was so inspired that I decided to make a list of my own with my 10 favorite houses from the past decade, almost all of which are terrific examples of sustainable design. Of course, we love our own work, but the purpose of this list is to celebrate the brilliant achievements of our talented and dedicated colleagues. So without further ado, here is my list of the Top 10 housing designs from the past decade:
1. Leonard Residence - Prefabricated Technology for Achieving Shape
Design: Miranda Leonard; Architect: Walker+Moody; Consultant: Michelle Kaufmann
Prefabricated fiberglass techniques are used to achieve the curved shapes and high performance insulation for this house, making it rather boat like. The construction technique minimizes materials and maximizes flexibility for complex shapes in an efficient, waterproof envelope.
2. Loftcube - Prefabricated Density Solution for Built Environment
Architect: Werner Aisslinger
As the swelling human population continues to encroach on once virgin lands, we need to look for alternatives that allow us to better preserve natural resources. The Loftcube is designed to sit atop the flat roofs of city high-rises, taking advantage of underutilized urban space rather than contributing to suburban sprawl.
3. Furniture House 1 - Prefabricated Components
Architect: Shigeru Ban
Factory produced full-height storage units made of particle board double as structural elements in Ban’s Furniture House. The result is a house that uses fewer materials, creates less waste, and takes less time to construct. The furniture becomes the structure.
4. The Big Dig House - Reused Materials
Architect: Paul Pedini
This New England home incorporates 600,000 pounds of recycled materials, including highway panels and bridge piers, discarded from Boston’s notorious 17-year long Big Dig project. Using the materials to build the home saved them from being sent to a landfill.
5. Make it Right Houses - Making Good Design Accessible
New Orleans, LA
Ecologically responsive design is a core value at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and one they have incorporated into their design for the Make It Right project, the goal of which is to catalyze the redevelopment of the Lower 9th Ward by building a neighborhood comprised of safe and healthy homes that are inspired by Cradle to Cradle thinking.
6. Maison a Bordeaux - Redefining Beauty & Accessibility
Architect: Rem Koolhaas
Created for a owner who was paralyzed in a car accident, this home inverts the notion of “accessible” architecture by making the center of the house into a platform that moves up and down. Each floor of the house is only complete when the elevator/platform room is present. So the wheelchair-bound resident is the center of the home and an integral part of it.
7. Rammed Earth Homes -Earthen Shelter
Architect: Rick Joy
The rammed earth walls of Joy’s various desert houses provide insulation and thermal capacity to combat a climate that is not only extremely hot during the day but also very cold at night. The homes also use corten steel for zero maintenance siding that blends beautifully with the desert landscape.
8. Taylor House - Eco Luxury
Architect: Frank Harmon
The entire roof of this Caribbean vacation home slopes inward like an upside down umbrella, directing rain through a central spout running through the center of the house. The roof design allows the house to harvest up to 16,000 gallons of water on the ground floor, and helps naturally cool the house via the venturi effect.
9. Colorado Court - Affordable Sustainability
Santa Monica, CA
Architect: Pugh + Scarpa
Rather than trying to hide its many solar panels, this 44-unit, five-story building uses them as siding and turns them into an aesthetically interesting element. The solar panels also make this affordable housing project 100% energy neutral. It’s the first of its type to achieve a LEED “Gold” rating.
10. Fletcher-Page House - Classic Sustainable Practices
Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales
Architect: Glenn Murcutt
Modest materials used in beautiful ways, passive solar design, and rain water catchment are all part of what makes this house green. Murcutt combines older sustainability principles with timeless design. He demonstrates that sustainable design doesn’t need to be all about new advances; it can also be about remembering the classic smart techniques our ancestors were building with hundreds of years ago.