For months we’ve been reading and hearing about how builders have been downsizing both the size and specification levels of the homes they build to cater to today’s more frugal buyers. In the first stage of that transformation, it was a practical move, and often catered more to function than form.
But now that industry architects and building pros have become more comfortable with homes that are smaller yet also more affordable, urban-oriented yet energy efficient, these second-stage homes are showing the type of creativity that win awards.
At the 2010 Gold Nugget Awards this past June, however, the winners demonstrated that only the right combination of form and function will ultimately win the accolades of the most important judges – the buyers. See the list of winners here.
In the case of 1Mission in San Diego, developer CLB Partners chose to restore a somewhat faded city block more to its 1920s glory at the street level while copying architectural cues from surrounding buildings for the upper floors. Set at the junction of the very walk-able neighborhoods of Hillcrest and north Mission Hills, the mixed-use retail and residential project combines front-facing townhomes along with flats attached to large balconies.
To tie it together, architect M.W. Steele Group introduced a public paseo and courtyard that help the two restaurants better capture potential customers. Like a much smaller version of the award-winning Uptown District project nearby that was built in the early 1990s, 1Mission proves that mixed-use projects can work even in a recession, but only if created with the right combination of location and execution.
In the City of Westminster in Southern California, Bridgecreek Development also made safe connectivity to the local community a priority when developing Morian Asian Gardens, an age-restricted condominium project in the Vietnamese-dominated Little Saigon. By blending feng shui design models with a French-inspired aesthetic, architect Danielian Associates wanted to evoke a classic Vietnam environment while also providing the more practical and social aspects of two clubhouses that bring in the best of the local climate via adjacent courtyards.
For energy efficiency, it’s harder to get greener than Los Vecinos in Chula Vista south of San Diego, which was named Green Sustainable Community of the Year. Earning the coveted LEED Platinum status and built on the site of an abandoned model (of which 84% of materials were re-purposed for the new building), this affordable Wakeland Housing & Development rental project also requires residents to complete a green training course. Given the combination of its solar array which provides 90% of its electrical needs, a turf area requiring no water and most services located within a half-mile walk, it’s certainly no surprise that Los Vecinos was accepted into the Zero Energy New Home (ZENH) program of the California Energy Commission for ongoing education purposes.
And yet for sheer creativity, Nelson Development’s Arden Estates in the West Portal neighborhood of San Francisco proves that urban infill doesn’t necessarily mean high density. After carving out seven 4,000-square-foot lots from a single undeveloped 28,000-square-foot parcel, each 3,200-square-foot home promises luxury finishes with high ceilings, generous setbacks, gardens and views, and also claims one of the highest green building ratings offered by the city.
Awarded Green Point Rated Community of the Year, the considerable architectural challenge was to blend in with both the surrounding homes as well as a the site’s keynote: Arden Wood, a Normandy-style chateau built in 1930 that has since been operating as a multi-purpose Christian Science center for spiritual healing, nursing services and education.
Yet by remaining sensitive to the neighborhood’s history and not building to maximum density, it’s projects like this that remind buyers that many builders are also artisans.