One of the best parts of being BUILDER's design editor is the chance to savor so much great architecture. I get to study and write about ingenious houses all day long, daydreaming about how my next residence (when I’m rich and famous) might be that cute little beach cottage or that bohemian factory loft or the Victorian-style painted lady. I can only imagine the exhilaration a builder feels when touring a neighborhood, pointing out a particularly fine residence, and saying, “I built that.”

But it's also nice to say "I wrote about that" when a house is particularly special. As 2009 draws to a close, here are 10 such houses, all worthy of a builder's pride.

Photos: Mariko Reed

Margarido House
Oakland, Calif.

What’s to love: Amazing glazing and earth-friendly living.

It’s hard to believe a 4,600-square-foot house with 80 windows and doors could be green at all, much less LEED Platinum certified, with efficiencies that beat California’s Title 24 energy standards by 55%. But this Oakland residence is all those things.

And on the matter of performance, windows made a difference. “During the planning phase, we modeled the home using an energy model that took into account the placement of operable versus non-operable windows,” says builder Mike McDonald. “In doing so, we were able to eliminate a lot of superfluous operable features that didn’t contribute to cross-ventilation. This helped from a cost perspective and also helped us achieve a lower U-value overall. It also made an aesthetic difference because a lot of the windows we’d originally planned as operable didn’t look as nice as fixed glazing.”

Photos: Mariko Reed

The strategic window program combines thermally broken aluminum windows by AlumaTherm--a third of which are now operable--with a NanaWall retractable wall system. Deep eaves and a dramatically cantilevered awning--elements McDonald refers to as “eyebrows”--accentuate the window arrays while protecting interior spaces from the hot summer sun. The handsome awning is made of recycled aluminum grating, an off-the-shelf product. “The grating provides nice ambient lighting through the shade all day, but because it’s an inch and a half deep, it has the shielding effect of a solid shade,” explains the builder. “Plus the material has structural integrity, so we were able to integrate it as part of the decking.”

Other green features: Energy Star cool roof; a 600-square-foot “living roof” and deck; LED lighting, in-floor hydronic heating, solar electric power and thermal hot water; smart home automation; energy-efficient appliances; on-site water reclamation tanks; permeable paving; concrete countertops made with fly ash and recycled glass; indoor air quality management system, drought-tolerant landscaping; zero-VOC paints; and locally sourced, sustainable products such as metal tiles made from discarded kiln shelves.

Builder: McDonald Construction and Development, Oakland, Calif.
Architect: Plumbob, Philadelphia

From our 2009 September Windows and Doors supplement, “Green with a View”