AIA Honors Top 10 Housing Designs

MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2014

White roofs, owner-controlled façades, high-performance insulation, and polished concrete flooring are among the technologies starring in this year's top housing designs, according to the American Institute of Architects.

On April 7, AIA announced its 10 recipients for the Housing Awards, which recognize “the best in housing design and promote the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit, and a valuable natural resource.”

The diverse array of winning projects includes an energy-efficient passive house in Seattle; restoration of a former YMCA building in Los Angeles; and a multi-family dwelling with an autism-specific design in Sonoma, CA.

Projects were recognized in four categories: One/Two Family Custom Housing, One/Two Family Production Housing (none selected this year), Multifamily Housing, and Specialized Housing.

AIA’s descriptions below give a brief summary of the projects. More details are available by clicking the name of the winning projects/firms.

One/Two Family Custom Housing

The One and Two Family Custom Residences award recognizes outstanding designs for custom and remodeled homes for specific clients, according to the AIA.

Informal House; South Pasadena, CA
Koning Eizenberg Architecture Inc.

The Informal House was custom designed for a family of four. The idea for this design was not to blur the distinction from indoor to outdoor with big walls of glass, but to intensify the quality of each.

Sustainable materials facilitate the client’s interest in indoor/outdoor living. Green roofs insulate the lower roofs while they strengthen the articulation between activity spaces and service spaces.

Exposed materials with a high thermal mass and polished concrete floors take advantage of the significant daily temperature swing in this coastal climate. A cool, white roof, easily accessed for cleaning, minimizes solar gain.

Kicking Horse Residence; British Columbia
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

The clients desired a weekend gathering place for their active family of five that would allow for flexibility to accommodate larger groups of family and friends and provide a direct connection to the outdoors for seasonal recreation.

The design reduces exposure to natural drainage patterns by limiting the building footprint. The architects worked directly with the contractor to detail the below-grade drainage system to perform most efficiently for the soils on site. 

Kicking Horse
© Matthew Millman

The evocative forms of the house are oriented to capture daylight and views to the stunning mountain peaks above, but also act to effectively shed snow from the massive storms that move through the area.  

Park Passive; Seattle
NK Architects

This home’s “passive survivability” lies in its ability to capture and retain heat. In the instance of a power outage during the winter, the indoor air temperature would remain steady significantly longer than a traditionally built house without the opening of doors and windows.

Park Passive
© Aaron Leitz Photography

The home is built to passive house standards and is the city’s first to be certified by the Passive House Academy. By creating both vertical and horizontal spatial connections, the design maximizes the shallow floor plate. Park Passive also celebrates affordability through conservation and a reduction in monthly utility bills.

Sol Duc Cabin; Seattle
Olson Kundig Architects

The owner desired a compact, low-maintenance, virtually indestructible building to house himself and his wife during fishing expeditions. Composed of two levels, the cabin’s entry, dining and kitchen areas are located on the lower floor while a sleeping loft with minimal shelving hovers above.

Sol Duc
© Benjamin Benschneider

A cantilevered steel deck extends from the lower level, providing unimpeded views of the river. Most of the structure—the steel frame and panels, the roof, shutters, and stairs—was prefabricated off-site, thereby reducing on-site waste and site disruption.

The cabin’s rugged surface and raw materiality respond to the surrounding wilderness while its verticality provides a safe haven during occasional floods from the nearby river.

Topo House; Wisconsin
Johnsen Schmaling Architects

The Topo House’s skin echoes the dramatic surface deformations that occur when wind blows over the crops and grasses of the surrounding prairie. It features a high-performance ventilated rainscreen system with concrete fiber panels, organized by 190 individually shaped, black-anodized aluminum fins of interrelated contracting and expanding shapes.  

Depending on the time of the day and the angle from which they are viewed, the fins create a constantly changing veil whose shifting geometry subverts the volumetric simplicity of the house itself. 

Topo House
© John J. Macaulay

The house also features an envelope that is designed to endure the continuous onslaught of the Midwest’s severe weather conditions and extreme temperature fluctuations.

Multifamily Living

AIA says the Multifamily Housing award recognizes outstanding apartment and condominium design. In addition to architectural design features, the jury assessed the integration of the building(s) into their context, including open and recreational space, transportation options and features that contribute to livable communities.

1221 Broadway; San Antonio
Lake|Flato Architects

This project has served as a catalyst for nearby urban redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization. Along with the complete makeover of an abandoned superstructure, passive solutions, including open breezeways carefully oriented to cool the circulation corridors, came with understanding San Antonio’s local climate.

1221 Broadway
© Chris Cooper

The project design reflects a common sense and regional response to climatic conditions. The project achieved a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index of 68, performing 32 percent better than a new multi-family project built to code. Its energy use intensity (EUI) is 30 percent better than the national average for large multi-family project types.

Cherokee Studios; Los Angeles
Brooks + Scarpa

The main architectural feature of this project is the building’s owner-controlled operable double façade system. By allowing the occupant to adjust the operable screens of the building façade, the facade is virtually redesigned “live” from within the space, reflecting the occupants of the building within, in real time.  

Cherokee Studios
© John Edward Linden

Cherokee is 40 percent more energy efficient than California’s Title 24, the most demanding energy code in the United States. Passive solar design strategies and proper building orientation, using the central courtyard between the two residential structures, allows for day lighting on both sides of every unit and shading, while allowing prevailing breezes to fully pass through the units for natural ventilation.

The green roof provides occupants the ability to enjoy nature while keeping the building better insulated, cleaning the air, and reducing storm water runoff.

Merritt Crossing Senior Apartments; Oakland, CA
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

This project is a high-density residential development with a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments that were fit into a downtown Oakland site between an inner-city neighborhood and a freeway.  

Merritt Crossing
© Tim Griffith

The south side of the building facing the freeway has a layered façade that provides solar and acoustical mitigation while creating a varied experience for passing drivers.

To control operating costs for the non-profit owner, the project was constructed for enhanced durability, weather protection and energy use. Dedicated to high environmental standards, the developer focused on healthy living and energy savings while electing to test a combination of sustainability rating systems.

Specialized Housing

The Specialized Housing award recognizes outstanding design of housing that meets the unique needs of other specialized housing types such as single room occupancy residences (SROs); independent living for the disabled; residential rehabilitation programs; domestic violence shelters; and other special housing. 

28th Street Apartments; Los Angeles
Koning Eizenberg Architecture Inc.

This project restores and adds to a distressed historic building (a former YMCA). The project now houses two synergistic programs run by two nonprofits that co-purchased the building: the neighborhood youth training and employment program and supportive housing (serving youth exiting foster care, the mentally ill and the chronically homeless.)

28 Street Apartments
© Eric Staudenmaier

Supportive services are offered on site, and residents have access to a roof garden, laundry and lounge. The historic front entry of the structure forms a neighborhood porch where community children gather, while the new addition creates a less-formal side entry to the housing units above.

Sweetwater Spectrum Community; Sonoma, CA
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

In 2009, a group of families, autism professionals and community leaders founded the nonprofit organization Sweetwater Spectrum to meet the extraordinary need for appropriate, high-quality, long-term housing for adults with autism.

This project, created to be replicated nationwide, integrates autism specific design, universal design and sustainable design, and provides a permanent home for 16 adults with autism. 

Sweetwater Spectrum Community
© Kyle Jeffers

Spaces were designed to reduce sensory stimulation (ambient sound, visual patterns, odors, etc.) and to create a simple, predictable domestic environment. Safety and security are paramount and healthy, durable materials are utilized throughout. Individuals may customize their personal living spaces to accommodate their preferences and particular needs.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architecture; Associations; Awards and honors; Color + Design; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Design; Housing

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