Santa Monica, California
Architect: John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects
Structural Engineer: William Koh, William Koh and Associates, Inc.
Photography: Benny Chan, Fotoworks
Green Opportunities: Designed for an entrepreneur seeking refuge from his unpredictable, nomadic life, this 3,500 square foot residence is one of the first houses to demonstrate that utilizing the full range of sustainability features is not only good for the environment, but also completely consistent with creating progressive, spatially rich environments.
Neighborliness: The same strategies that modulate the penetration of sun and air into the house (south-facing eaves, minimal western penetrations, etc.) also generate a dynamic layering of forms and planes that are appropriately scaled to the surrounding neighborhood. The choice of sustainable materials such as shiplapped cement board and plaster contributes to a respectful relationship with adjacent residences.
Diagonal Void: The internal masses of the house have been distributed to create a “diagonal void” that brings light and air deep into the house through both plan and section. It begins at a large, south-facing clerestory on the second floor that emits a warm glow at night. Carved from its center is a stair atrium that collects and vents hot air through motorized skylights in the roof. The unexpected void intensifies the abstract spatial qualities that are at the heart of the home’s aesthetic.
Blurring Boundaries: The structure’s siting and openness allow sunlight and breezes to naturally warm and cool the house, as well as to encourage the type of indoor-outdoor living made possible by Southern California’s temperate environment. (The house has no mechanical air conditioning system.) The koi pond cools the air before it enters the house. The concrete floors absorb heat during the day and release it at night.
See the Light: A generous use of skylights and clerestories reduces the need for artificial lighting. It also creates a combination of dynamic and reflected light that brings the owner’s art collection alive.
Unseen Beauty: The house employs the following active green technologies: Santa Monica’s first gray water system, which filters much of house’s waste water for use by the garden; a 4-kilowatt rooftop photovoltaic system that supplies 85% of the house’s power; and a highly efficient in-floor radiant heating system. Recycled or sustainably produced materials not already noted include: recycled cotton insulation; sustainably harvested wood stairs and floors; formaldehyde-free MDF cabinets; low VOC paint; and quartz countertops. The house has been the subject of several university lectures and is on the cover of Santa Monica’s influential “Residential Green Building Guide.”