AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Solar Umbrella House

This image shows the home's facade along Woodlawn Avenue.
Photo credit: Marvin Rand


  • Location: Venice, CA
  • Building type(s): Single-family residential
  • 65% new construction, 35% renovation of a 1923 building, last renovated in 1934
  • 1,790 ft2 (166 m2)
  • Project scope: 2-story building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed April 2005

Inspired by Paul Rudolph's Umbrella House of 1953, the Solar Umbrella House was designed to establish a precedent for the next generation of California modernist architecture. Many design features at the Solar Umbrella are multivalent and rich with meaning, performing functional, formal, and experiential roles.

The original 450-ft2 house was completed in 1924, and 200 ft2 were added in 1934. No other work was done until the new owners bought the house and remodeled the 650 ft2 in 1997. In 2005, the owners added 1,150 ft2.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2006. It was submitted by Pugh + Scarpa, in Santa Monica, California. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

Passively adapted to the temperate-arid climate of southern California, the major design feature of the Solar Umbrella is a shading solar canopy. Rather than deflecting sunlight, this contemporary solar canopy uses 89 amorphous photovoltaic panels to transforms the sunlight into usable energy, providing 95% of the residence's electricity. At the same time, it screens large portions of the structure from direct exposure to the intense southern California sun, protecting the body of the building from thermal heat gain. A net meter provided by the City of Los Angeles connects the photovoltaic array to the grid, eliminating both the need for a storage system and the time-of-use charges associated with traditional electricity use.

An integrated solar heating system supplies heat through the concrete floors of the new addition. Three solar hot-water panels preheat the domestic hot water, and a fourth heats the swimming pool. The home's daylit interior requires no electric lighting on sunny days. The house is outfitted with energy-efficient appliances and both interior and exterior lighting-control systems. Materials were selected based on their effects on the environment and indoor air quality.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa, Individual(s)
  • Typically occupied by 3 people, 105 hours per person per week; and 15 visitors per week, 3 hours per visitor per week

Building Programs

Indoor Spaces:

Living quarters (100%)

Outdoor Spaces:

Garden—decorative (70%), Patio/hardscape (15%), Parking (10%), Pedestrian/non-motorized vehicle path (5%), Drives/roadway (3%)


Integrated team, Training, Green specifications, Contracting, Commissioning, Performance measurement and verification, Operations and maintenance, Open space preservation, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Efficient irrigation, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Massing and orientation, Insulation levels, Glazing, Airtightness, Passive solar, HVAC, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, On-site renewable electricity, Durability, Benign materials, Salvaged materials, Recycled materials, Local materials, Certified wood, C&D waste management, Occupant recycling, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Ventilation effectiveness, Thermal comfort, Low-emitting materials, Indoor air quality monitoring

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Last updated: 4/20/2006

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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