Given a merit award in two categories--both for its innovative, narrow, three-story floor plan and its use of "clustering"--this exceptional 120-unit detached home project also kept prices affordable (given the region). The move-up homes on narrow lots average about 1,500 square feet and include an optional third-floor space that has proven immensely popular.

"About 80 percent of buyers go for that," notes architect Mark Scheurer. "They are really storing it up, looking at it as a space for future growth, so they don't have to move so often."

Part of the Ladera Ranch planned community, about 15 miles inland from Irvine, Calif., this project includes carefully planned village greens and public spaces. Homes are then grouped around the common areas, with auto circulation removed to rear alleys, not unlike a traditional neighborhood plan. "We try to create 'defensible spaces,'" notes Scheurer, "places where kids can play and moms can watch them easily. They're really giving up private yards on the lots for larger village greens."

Another aspect of the project also makes it unusual for production housing. All four sides of the exteriors feature architectural detailing. "We tried to do that detailing in traditional styles that builders would be familiar with and know how to build," notes Scheurer. "There are a lot of arbitrary styles out there in master planned communities. This approach seems to have identified well with buyers, who tend to be highly intelligent young people who want a fully wired house. They're also very popular with families."

Categories: Cluster community; Production/Semi-custom home, less than 2,000 square feet (Plan 3); Entrant/Architect: Scheurer Architects, Newport Beach, Calif.; Builder: Baywood Development/Barratt-Baywood, Newport Beach; Developer: DMB Ladera, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.; Land Planner: Randy and Adam Streeter, Irvine, Calif.; Landscape Architect: Nissho of California, Vista, Calif.; Interior Designer: Klang & Associates, San Diego

Jeffrey Aron Photography

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.