Of all building materials, concrete is one of the eco-friendliest. It’s locally available almost everywhere, it creates a fine thermal mass, and it’s ready to go once the forms are removed, requiring no additional finish work or materials. But it can appear cold and monolithic in large quantities.

This tendency toward bland uniformity isn’t so much of a problem when designer Fu-Tung Cheng is the one orchestrating the pours. The concrete walls of this 4,100-square-foot home are differently textured, and some feature abstract veining similar to that found in natural rock formations.

To achieve this effect, Cheng used a slip cast technique to create a series of 4-foot-by-8-foot board-formed panels (“lifts”), which were then ganged together. Working on this intimate scale, as opposed to 20-foot forms, allowed the introduction of subtle bands of color and swipes of exposed aggregate before the concrete was set. Engineering the home’s concrete core as an assemblage of smaller pieces also allowed for repeated reuse of the same plastic laminate and plywood molds, thus reducing construction waste.

But the residence isn’t constructed entirely from concrete. Wood-framed “wings” housing private quarters (bedrooms and a study) render it softer around the edges.

Category: Custom home, 3,500 to 6,000 square feet
Entrant/Architect: Cheng Design, Berkeley, Calif.
Builder: D. Carlson Construction, Los Gatos, Calif.
Landscape architect: Ron Emerson Garden Design, La Honda, Calif.

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