The design review process in Santa Barbara, Calif., is about as stringent as they come, but that didn’t stop architects Barry and Jeff Berkus and builder Steve Berkus (yes, they are related) from hitting this project out of the park and turning a quarter acre into something extra special.

The five small infill units that make up this pocket village surround a central courtyard, sharing an outdoor fireplace and fountain. With their crisp stucco and red tile roofs, the buildings respect local architectural tradition, blending Spanish, Mediterranean, and Moorish influences. But they aren’t cookie cutter. Each residence is thoughtfully oriented with its own unique entry and arrival sequence, and there is delight in details such as wrought iron railings, arched windows, and tiled staircases.

The interiors of each home skew slightly more contemporary, but are no less stunning with clean lines, natural wood and tile finishes, and meaningful touches such as art alcoves with picture lighting. And the four-sided architecture that graces each building creates not only visual interest on the outside, but channels big helpings of natural light inside.

But these precious, little gems (ranging in size from just 954 to 1,989 square feet) add up to more than just a pretty picture. The project scored LEED Platinum certification and went on to become a pilot for the city’s “Built Green” program. Water-conserving features such as on-site rainwater collection, pervious paving materials, and xeriscaping with sustainable irrigation practices are central to its drought-tolerant mission.

Herein lies a model for well-pro-portioned architecture and impeccable craftsmanship, not to mention sustainability.

Awards: Project of the Year and Grand for sustainable residential neighborhood, attached
Builder: Berkus Construction, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Developer: Del Mar Development/Berkus Construction, Santa Barbara
Architects/Land planners: Jeffrey Berkus Architects, Aspen, Colo., and B3 Architects, a Berkus Design Studio, Santa Barbara

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Santa Barbara, CA.