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April 24, 2018

High design meets net zero: OK wins AIA award for desert house

Photo by Gabe Border [enlarge]
The 5,200-square-foot California house has three wings connected by a hearth, evoking a series of tents around a campfire. Owner Bruce Shafer was the contractor.

A house in California's Mojave Desert designed by Olson Kundig was one of the winners in the American Institute of Architects' COTE Top Ten Awards.

The Committee on the Environment awards recognize both integrated design and cutting-edge performance.

Ortlieb's Bottling House in Philadelphia won a Top Ten Plus award for its post-occupancy performance. It was designed by KieranTimberlake.

Seattle-based Olson Kundig designed the house in Tehachapi. It is called Sawmill, and was completed in 2014. Construction cost $166.7 per square foot, excluding furnishings.

The design firm said Sawmill is a new model for sustainable single-family homes: It is high-design and net-zero, operating completely off the grid.

The 5,200-square-foot house is made of concrete block, steel and glass. It has three wings connected by a central hearth, evoking a series of tents around a campfire.

A 12-by-26-foot window wall retracts with the turn of a wheel, transforming the outdoor patio into a fourth “tent” around the fire.

Sawmill's durable materials are intended to withstand the harsh climate. Fires are a major hazard in summer and winters are extremely cold. Salvaged and recycled materials were used whenever possible, and the house was sited to minimize disturbance to the landscape.

The jury commended the team for the site-specific analysis, as evidenced by the decision to let rainwater recharge the water table rather than collect it.

“If a single-family dwelling is to be built in a desert climate, this is how to do it,” the jury statement reads.

The team includes Bruce Shafer, contractor (and owner); Steelogic, corrugated metal roofing; Phil Turner, “gizmo” engineer;

WSP Flack + Kurtz, MEP engineer; Monte Clark Engineering, structural engineer; and James Riddle, master welder.

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