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Energy-efficient homes shine in this year's AIA Small Project Awards


June 11, 2014

The Redaction House, by Johnsen Schmaling Architects, was one of five modern residences given the nod by AIA's judges (Photo: John J. Macaulay)

The Redaction House, by Johnsen Schmaling Architects, was one of five modern residences given the nod by AIA's judges (Photo: John J. Macaulay)

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The American Institute of Architecture's Small Project Practitioners Knowledge Community recently revealed the winners of its 8th annual Small Project Awards. The awards aim to highlight outstanding architectural projects of all kinds, which are small in both stature and cost. This year's winners included several pavilions, a light installation, and five energy-efficient homes.

The awards are split into three categories: up to $150,000 in construction costs, up to $1,500,000 in construction costs, and under 464 sq m (5,000 sq ft) in size.

Category One: Up to $150,000 in construction costs

Volvo's Pure Tension Pavilion is the most interesting of the four winners in this category. The Pure Tension Pavilion is a solar charging pavilion which can recharge an electric car's fully-depleted batteries in around 12 hours, during optimal weather conditions. The pavilion was commissioned by Volvo Car Italia for the new Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid electric car and is currently a working prototype.

The unit is portable and can be flat-packed to fit in the trunk of a car, assembling in less than an hour with a two- or three-person team. It weighs a hefty 68 kg (150 lb), and fits into two 165 x 38 x 38 cm (65 x 15 x 15 inch) cases.

The other winners in the category are New York City's Governors Island-based Head in the Clouds Pavilion, which is made from 53,780 recycled plastic bottles – or the amount of plastic bottles thrown away in NYC in one hour. Fashion[ING] Objects is backdrop installation for an annual fashion event in Austin, Texas, and Starlight is a light installation for the Museum of the City of New York.

Category Two: Up to $1,500,000 in construction costs

Three homes and a coffee shop take the prizes in this category. Though all are worthy, the aptly-named Small House in an Olive Grove by Cooper Joseph Studio, stands out.

The 78 sq m (850 sq ft) home is modern in design with a hint of brutalist inspiration, but fits in well with its rural surroundings. It operates completely off-grid, and sports a solar array for all electricity needs, with storm water runoff ensuring there are no flash floods.

The other homes in the category are the Redaction House and Topo House, both by Johnsen Schmaling Architects. The latter of the two sports energy-efficient features which include a green roof and ventilated facade.

Finally, the Ground Cafe at Yale University was recognized for its joining of science and art (and, one hopes, good coffee). It boasts a large digital canvas, nicknamed LuxED, from which presentations can be made.

Category Three: Under 5,000 square feet

This final category contains just two projects, which both happen to be by Fougeron Architecture: Fall House, and Flip House. While we've already covered the interesting sustainable features of the former in full, Flip House involved the renovation of an existing 1930s residence in San Francisco.

The architects flipped the facade upside down and re-arranged the home's interior spaces to make the most of the natural advantages of its plot and surroundings. This layout allows easy access to the garden from each floor via a central stairwell, while the all-glass facade is sure to offer great views.

That rounds out our coverage of AIA's Small Projects Awards. Head to the gallery for multiple photos of each of the winners.

Source: AIA

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

I was reminded of some remote building that is used to house seeds, or telephone exchange machinery from the 1960's when I looked at these structures. This seems to be the theme de juor of architecture these days. What happened to esthetics and the human being?

My Hudson Bay was needed to bring some warmth to these concrete cold structures. And there were, ta da, well, bare concrete walls! At least in this group of structures there was not the Insect Alien Building Theme to contend with.

What is going on? Culture, history seem to vanish in these structures as quick as it does looking at Euro Currency. There is a kind of NOTHINGNESS that is extruded. A hundred years from now, what could be said of these structures, if they can even last that long without heavy constant maintenance. Frank Lloyd Wright had some houses that are like these, and they are Maintenance Queens, so I am just extrapolating that this is in the same family...

Per snow, I have seen and worked on a cabin that is kind of akin to some of these structures. It had a metal roof. Ok, that is nice, but the fasten device of nails with rubber seals failed after about 10 years. Super cold, snow, ice, melting, rain and what a mess! Water seeped in slowly, and the dwelling was a permanent host to MOLD. It would make you cry, take your breath away, up in the pristine high mountains. The ultimate solution after 30 years? Tear it down. So, I'd give these structures about 30 to 40 years before living in them would be inhospitable and cruel.

But I still ask, what is going on? Why are human beings, ah, extruded into such cold structures? Is it a contempt for humans? Maybe so.


We were only given the structures appearance with no info on how or why they are "energy efficient". From that I wonder how all that glass can be efficient? Or is it the new glass that can be a conductor or resistor depending on a current?

I liked the fold out car charger. But 12 hours charge time for what batt.? This should be very popular for the outback or where no grid exists.

Don Duncan

Sterile, sterile, sterile...

Geoffrey Britain
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