The Housing Chronicles Blog: The 2012 Gold Nugget Awards: Design Meets Green Building

Friday, July 20, 2012

The 2012 Gold Nugget Awards: Design Meets Green Building

It’s certainly interesting to see that the Home of the Year at the recent 2012 Gold Nugget Awards in San Francisco, entitled “Modern Farmhouse,” seemed to effortlessly combine the style of a classic farmhouse with today’s demand for flexible living and multi-generational households.  Although built as a semi-custom home to be auctioned off for St. Jude’s Cancer Center, the Castle Rock, CO home by Woodley Architects has been so well-received that similar designs are currently underway.

But this award-winning home is far from an exception.  In today’s competitive business environment, product design for consumer technology, cars and Web sites has taken center stage, and it is now increasingly felt in updated designs for a variety of building projects whether they’re intended for single-family homes, multi-family projects, mixed-use projects or even the growing demand for multi-generational homes.

For example, Garbett Homes’ Solaris project in South Jordan, UT, nabbed the Grand Award for Residential Project of the Year – Detached Product due to a combination of bright colors and modern lines wrapped around energy-efficient techniques that mean utility bills as low as $5 per month.  In a state of annual climate changes such as Utah, that’s certainly impressive, and is made possible by solar or geothermal heating and cooling as a standard feature.  Consequently, these homes redefine the single-family home in ways that are both practical and aesthetic.

In Huntington Beach, CA, Christopher Homes tapped MSA Architects to create an attached project that varied its facades enough to emulate a high-density detached development.  By combining useful outdoor spaces, spacious common rooms and high-functioning kitchens, The Villas at Pacific Shores -- Grand Award winner for Attached Product within a suburban Setting – thus provides a luxury, attached home alternative in this coastal community of Orange County.

For the winner of the Attached Product in an Urban setting, judges decided upon the Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments, which offer short-term housing for homeless persons in transition.  Built in a part of downtown San Francisco damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the unique exterior selected by architects David Baker + Partners has reportedly helped to re-energize a streetscape long dominated by much older buildings. In addition, a combination of gathering rooms, an on-site bakery providing job training and a green roof where residents can grow their own food helps to establish the project as much more than just a simple building.

In Irvine, CA, The New Home Company hired Robert Hidey Architects for The Hill at Lambert Ranch and won the top prize for detached housing in the newly created category of Multi-Generational Concepts.  By cleverly using landscaping and window placement, Residence One & Two provide privacy for individual family members while still allowing for a large, common space named, of course, the family compound.

But it was in San Francisco where developer Bridge Housing, working with David Baker + Partners, built Amstrong Place Senior and Family Housing, in the process winning the Grand Award for best attached Multi-Generational Concept.  Combining affordable flats for seniors with townhomes for growing families, the design’s primary focus was to eliminate any potential feelings of isolation for its older residents while still remaining interesting to younger ones.  That was achieved by plenty of landscaped public space and a patchwork of playful colors and patterns on the exterior to make it a neighborhood stand-out.

Finally, Meritage Homes’s Ragle Ranch in Santa Rosa, CA won the Grand Award for continuing to raise the bar for green homes among production homes.  With the latest construction techniques, these Meritage Homes are reportedly 39% more efficient than the already-high standards required by California.  Advanced ventilation design and low-emitting products throughout the house help to maintain indoor air quality, while both plumbing fixtures and outdoor landscaping are engineered for minimal water use.  Best of all, since their work was verified by third parties such as EnergyStar and GreenPoint Rated, customers get separate proof of a green home.

With new home projects such as these capturing the interest of buyers or renters and winning the plaudits of their peers in the building industry, I think it can be said that practical and efficient need not equal boring.  Best of all, these designs will provide a compelling alternative to older, more staid homes which, relatively speaking, hog both water and energy.

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