NOVE, a nine-unit infill project in San Francisco’s Mission District, isn’t Victorian like the neighboring homes that have been there since 1896. It’s contemporary [and proud of it], although it shows due respect for its elders with bays that align with their cornice details and a scale that matches the rhythm of the street. At the same time, the new homes bring variety to the scene with a crisp and durable palette of stucco, Hardieplank, frosted glass, aluminum, and ipe. But NOVE—whose name is Italian for nine—is more than just a pretty face. It’s also top-of-the-line green. Certified LEED Platinum, the sleek, market-rate residences, which range from 1,200 to 1,600 square feet, are outfitted with Alumatherm thermally broken windows, blown-in blanket insulation, and permeable landscaping. Prefabricated panelized wall systems helped minimize jobsite waste, and rooftop solar hot water collectors feed both domestic hot water and space heating needs. What the project doesn’t have is photovoltaic panels.

This, explains architect Glenn Rescalvo with Handel Architects, was a strategic trade-off. Shifting the focus away from solar electric in favor of a sun-powered water system (supplemented by a high-efficiency boiler) reduced construction costs by about $171,000, while giving buyers more bang for their buck. “We were able to dramatically reduce each unit’s expected hot water and space heating costs by 63 percent,” he says.

Located on three contiguous lots (a rarity in this densely populated city), the residences are oriented back-to-back so that they front two different streets. This site-planning solution promotes safety by casting more eyes on the street and eliminating dark back alleys. It also allowed the creation of a private courtyard garden in the spine between buildings. This, combined with upper-story decks on the street sides of the buildings, mean not just one, but two outdoor living spaces per unit.

“We had to apply for a variance to put housing on an alleyway where normally the backyard would be,” says builder/developer Andrew Greene of Linea Built, noting that the entire process, from the initial meetings with neighbors to permit issuance, took about 18 months. His company has since hired a landscape architect under separate contract to help revitalize the alleyway. “The neighbors have applied for a Community Challenge Grant Program from the city and are in the process of redeveloping it,” he explains. “We have agreed to donate funds for the construction costs to complete our portion of the alley’s renovations.”

Oh, and that recession that everyone’s been talking about? It seems to have spared this project, which was completed in March 2010. Eight of the nine units are now sold and occupied, having commanded price tags of $975,000 to $1.6 million.

Visit http://go.hw.net/project_Jan_2011 to see a slideshow with captions about NOVE.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.