Las Vegas, Jan. 20 -- “How do you bring green to a broad audience?” architect Steven DeWan, AIA, asked the audience during the “12 Tips to Transform Any Plan Into a Green House Plan” seminar at the International Builders’ Show. “Through design.”

DeWan, of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Bassenian Lagoni Architects, and Los Angeles-based Pardee Homes’ Joyce Mason showcased Pardee’s Portico project as a case study for simple solutions that allow for diverse, eco-conscious design within denser communities and smaller footprints.

Located in the Pacific Highlands master-planned development in San Diego, Portico consists of 185 single-family houses. The California Green Builder-certified homes exceed Gold level in the NAHB’s Model Green Home Building Guidelines in all but the resource efficiency category. They are designed under Pardee’s own LivingSmart green building package.

At 8.5 units per acre and with sizes ranging from 2,165 square feet to 2,413 square feet, Portico faced multiple challenges of maximizing space while balancing daylight penetration and privacy. Creativity was essential to ensure architectural appeal, a comfortable living space, and an eco-conscious lifestyle. The key, say DeWan and Mason, was planning for green from the start, but never forgetting that design is first and foremost what buyers want.

“The architecture and design is what’s attracting your buyers and the green is just the icing on the cake,” DeWan said. Density is a reality more builders will have to accept, and success in doing so relies on maintaining livability.

Though the homes are tightly packed, a diverse streetscape gives the community broad architectural appeal, with a mix of early-California styles providing complementary options. Rear-alley-loaded garages help maintain the clean front, along with plentiful, colorful native plantings and gently curving sidewalks and paths. Side courtyards bring in light while offering expanded, outdoor living space.

“To achieve geen in production housing, you need to appeal to a diverse group of buyers with diverse solutions,” DeWan explained. Just as important, he said, is that green doesn’t have to stand out or depart from traditional styles.

To keep the small, narrow floor plans from feeling snug, designers preplanned for incorporating natural light without sacrificing privacy. Rooms are never more than two deep to allow for light penetration and cross-ventilation, and lighting from two sides adds depth to smaller rooms. Corner glazing on rooms abutting the courtyard can add size and connection to the outdoor space. Operable windows in the stairway aid with cross ventilation, and some first-floor windows are set higher to bring in light but protect privacy.

When planning small rooms, designers must remember to take furniture into account when placing windows and closets.

As important to the community’s appeal were a range of eco- and community-friendly elements again incorporated during the design stage, including interconnected open spaces, walking trails, a wildlife corridor, walkability, and proximity to a future village center. “These are the features buyers value and are willing to pay for,” DeWan said.

Native plants, including roses, figure prominently into individual lots and throughout the community landscape. 

In addition to the design elements, Portico homes feature an array of other details that boost green features without sacrificing livability or architectural appeal. Among their green features:

  • pervious paving in driveways
  • carpet made with recycled soda bottles
  • Lyptus cabinets and floors
  • low-E window and door glazing
  • fluorescent lighting
  • sealed ductwork
  • Energy Star-rated appliances
  • programmable thermostats
  • tankless water heaters
  • protected entries
  • roof-integrated photovoltaics (upgrade)
  • WaterSense-certified faucets, low-flow showerheads, and dual-flush toilets
  • low-VOC paint
  • central vacuum
  • energy management system Click here to see more about Portico.

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