AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Eastern Sierra House

This photo shows an overview of the Eastern Sierra Residence.
Photo credit: Edward Caldwell Photography


  • Location: Gardnerville, NV
  • Building type(s): Single-family residential
  • New construction
  • 3,450 ft2 (321 m2)
  • Project scope: 2-story building
  • Rural setting
  • Completed December 2004

This sustainable demonstration home was carefully designed to take advantage of the rugged beauty of its site on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, overlooking the Carson Valley. Working with the slope, orientation, and dramatic views, the design team structured the house around a courtyard oasis shaded by a photovoltaic array. While the garage and guest wing to the west blend into the landscape via sod roofs, the main form juts out like a boulder, its south-facing roof peeling up at the corner for passive solar gain and for a dramatic view of snow-capped Job's Peak to the southwest.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Green Project for 2005. It was submitted by Arkin Tilt Architects, in Albany, California. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

Sited some 20 miles south of Carson City, this home was designed to showcase a variety of green building practices. The project is serving to open the eyes of neighbors, visitors, and local and state dignitaries to the higher quality of life that can be achieved with thoughtful solar and green building strategies.

The house is virtually energy independent: careful shading, high insulation values, and thermal mass, aided by flushing from cool night air, prevent overheating in the summer. Solar hot-water panels located at the edge of the terrace feed a deep-sand-bed hydronic heating system and provide domestic hot water. A grid-intertied photovoltaic system meets the home's electricity needs.

Using a variety of natural, efficient, and durable materials—primarily strawbale with an earthen finish, metal roofing, and slatted cement-board siding—the home's finishes harmonize with the landscape. The home also features structural insulated panels, insulated concrete forms, FSC-certified wood, and an impressive collection of salvaged materials.

The landscape builds on the existing native sagebrush, adding complimentary climate-appropriate species, permaculture gardens, and wildlife habitat irrigated with greywater. All plumbing fixtures are low flow, further reducing the home's potable-water consumption.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by Suzanne Johnson, Individual(s)
  • Typically occupied by 3 people, 168 hours per person per week; and 20 visitors per week, 20 hours per visitor per week

Building Programs

Indoor Spaces:

Living quarters


Green framework, Indigenous vegetation, Water harvesting, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Massing and orientation, Insulation levels, Glazing, Passive solar, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, On-site renewable electricity, Salvaged materials, Recycled materials, Certified wood, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Thermal comfort

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Last updated: 4/25/2005

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

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