Living in the Land, Part 2: Forward-Thinking Design

Living in the land means respecting nature and minimizing your impact on it. Here are five forward-thinking houses that are pushing the boundaries of sustainable design and materials—from rammed earth walls to a floating foundation—while still remaining attainable. (For a look at more homes that integrate the environment into their form and function, check out Living in the Land.)

Caterpillar House

The Caterpillar House is perched atop a grassy hill in the Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, Calif. “The site is so beautiful that we wanted the house to be as connected to the land as possible,” Feldman Architecture told California Home + Design. Excavated earth was even used in the construction of the walls, which curve according to the contours of the site and regulate the temperature inside. Three outdoor tanks gather and store rainwater for irrigation, and integrated photovoltaic panels provide the home with all of its energy needs. The Caterpillar House is the first custom home on California’s Central Coast to receive LEED platinum certification.

Dune House

The Dune House is embedded into the sand dunes of Terschelling, a Dutch island in the North Sea. Its design, by Marc Koehler Architects, drew its inspiration from the “experience of walking through the dunes,” and its split-level floors provide unique views of the surrounding landscape. The house was built with environmentally friendly materials, and its innovative roof and bio-fuel heating system makes it extremely energy efficient and reduces its ecological footprint.

Floating House

The Floating House by Singapore-based architect Dymitr Malcew was “designed for people who appreciate freedom and nature at their doorstep.” The two-bedroom, two-bath house sits on a floating platform, with this “seamless connection” to its environment minimizing its footprint. “The main goal of the project was to design a house that has an impact on its surroundings in the most minimal way,” Malcew says, “but at the same time offers flexibility and an out of the box experience.”

Curved House

The Curved House—a 7,000 square foot home with a tension-edge pool and sunken fire pit—was intended to be an oasis. Sustainability was also of paramount importance, so Kansas City-based Hufft Projects chose Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, local materials, photovoltaic panels, radiant floor heating and a geothermal system to ensure its minimal footprint. Hufft also used natural light to its advantage. “The house has lots of glass throughout, and skylights where there’s not access to windows,” architect Matthew Hufft told Dwell. “So during the day—even a dark overcast day—you don’t have to turn on a single light to get anywhere in the house.”

Fall House

The 3,800 square-foot Fall House is cantilevered on a bluff in Big Sur. “Our design embeds the building with the land,” Fougeron Architecture explained on its website, “creating a structure that is inseparable from its context.” The vacation home includes such sustainable features as a solar orientation, low-e glass, radiant hydronic heat, stack ventilation, on-site wastewater treatment, a stream for fresh water and a planted roof.

Photo credits: Caterpillar House by Joe Fletcher via Feldman Architecture website; Dune House by Filip Dujardin via ArchDaily; Floating House via Dymitr Malcew website; Curved House by Mike Sinclair via Dwell; The Fall House by Joe Fletcher via Fougeron Architecture website.