The oldest ski resort in the U.S., Sun Valley, Idaho, is an active playground all year round. With its snowy winters, locals and tourists delight in serious outdoor play.

But in recent years, neighboring towns’ main roads became more congested as workers commuted from surrounding communities. A need emerged for affordable workforce housing, and rural Hailey (population: 6,000) became home to the new 22-acre development. Catherine Benotto, principal of Weber Thompson Architects, helped realize this small town’s big concept.

Sweetwater, a high-density, LEED-certified village of condos, townhomes, and carriage houses dotted with lush courtyards, brings a new level of green living to town. Using reclaimed wood siding and cool roofing, Benotto engineered a smart-growth community that blends into the landscape. The property’s clubhouse boasts reduced water and energy use, and shared green spaces and energy-efficient streetlights encourage evening strolls and conversation among residents.

The homes that border the main park were intentionally built as the largest, says Benotto, because those were most likely to be inhabited by families. Its wide open spaces allow children to play free of traffic.

Merit Award

Category Green/Sustainable community
Entrant/Architect/Land planner/Interior designer Weber Thompson, Seattle
Builder Roth Development Group, Hailey, Idaho
Landscape architect Eggers and Associates, Ketchum, Idaho

The community features parking garages, uncharacteristic for a rural environment. “It’s a very efficient way of handling the parking,” Benotto says, “to keep it under the building. And doing it in a small town was another feat.”