WCG Home

photos by John Swain Photography


Efficient. Beautiful. Sustainable. The WCG home embodies the best that green architecture has to offer. Built for West Coast Green, a 2007 green conference in San Francisco, this 725-square foot residence is a unique haven whose sustainable elements—green roofing system, water catchment system, and recycled building materials—result in a zero energy bill.

The warm, thoughtful, multifunctional design of the home, with its slanted wood siding, high ceilings, and skylights, reflects the influence of rural Iowa, where I grew up. This fresh, modern interpretation of the barn vernacular has produced a spacious, healthy, light-filled home with a minimal impact on the environment.

The clean, tranquil lines of this home encourage relaxation and peaceful reflection. And since the home is constructed using modular technology, several different floor plans are available. This flexibility of design makes it particularly appealing in a resort or retreat setting. Fresh air, natural light, and attractive design offer guests a sustainable private sanctuary.

One of the main goals of West Coast Green is to inspire people to implement green design in their own homes. Situated prominently in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, the WCG home received thousands of visitors during the few days it was on display, many of whom marveled at the fact that such a comfortable home was also environmentally sustainable. One national newspaper commented on the home’s “sleek, modern design, lots of windows, and cool, welcoming tones.”

The home was built in eight weeks, shipped in one day and, thanks to the efforts of many committed volunteers, completed on-site in three days. The dedicated efforts of the community resembled an old-fashioned barn-raising and demonstrated the close connection between sustainability and community.

The clean lines and warm spaces of the WCG Home allow for an eclectic range of choices for the interior. Today, fortunately, an increasing number of designers are creating eco-friendly furnishings. Designed in collaboration with Dan Gregory, senior editor of Sunset Magazine, the interior of the home at West Coast Green demonstrates that sustainable design can be both comfortable and beautiful.

Despite its small square footage, the design ensures a sense of spaciousness. Clever design choices – such as walls composed of accordion glass doors that open to the outdoors, high ceilings, and a sloped roof—nurture a feeling of openness and connection with the natural landscape.

In keeping with a philosophy of designing “big” rather than building “big,” the design encourages functional, multi-use spaces. For example, I designed the kitchen island in collaboration with Concreteworks which allows homeowners to combine dining and food preparation in one place, and also includes an open shelving system for kitchen and dining storage. Rather than traditional doors, the home features sliding screen panels made from recycled plastic that create a sense of openness and flow as you move from one room to another. And the entry light, a unique LED fixture that I designed also functions as a vase that can hold flowers or other treasured objects.

High-performance insulation, radiant heating, LED lighting fixtures, and solar panels eliminate energy waste, and strategically located skylights and windows nearly eliminate the need for artificial light during the day. The home uses an energy monitoring system that allows owners to track energy use throughout the day and also connects to a state-of-the-art home theater, audio network, and speaker system. As well, technologies such as dual-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads and faucets, and on-demand water heaters conserve water, while a green roof system, rainwater catchment system and grey water system further limit the home’s impact on the water supply. As a result, the home exceeds the Green Point Rating System by 300 percent.

Beauty and sustainability continue outside the walls of the home, whose design encourages the extension of living space into the outdoors. For the West Coast Green Conference in San Francisco, the landscape design featured a series of separate outdoor “rooms,” each of which made use of drought-tolerant plants. Well-designed, sustainable outdoor spaces add considerable livable square footage to a home, and can include patios, decks, outdoor bathrooms and outdoor kitchens. All of these options offer a way to connect to the natural world without increasing a home’s impact on the environment. In fact, thoughtful landscaping can be restorative as well as sustainable.

The show garden of the WCG Home was designed by Nick Thayer of Late Afternoon Designs and included reused and recycled products whenever possible. On-site water retention was accomplished with permeable paving and plantings. A bioswale of native sedges extended the function of the green roof to collect and filter water and return it to the ground. In addition to water conservation, the use of native and adaptive plants created a sense of place and connection with nature. One day after the garden was planted, local hummingbirds came to feed on the autumn sage and verbenas.

The home design depicted in this photo is not owned by, and is not available for purchase from, Michelle Kaufmann.

One Response to “WCG Home”

  1. Carolina Pardo Miceli says:

    Hello, Michelle
    Good Morning,
    Happy Women’s Day,I wish you to be very happy!
    How are you?
    I´m Carolina Pardo Miceli,I´m 23 years old and I studying Environmental Engineering at Pontíficia University Catolic Campinas – SP – Brazil.
    I visited your web site because I´m reading the book: “Design of Sustainable Buildings” the author Marian Keeler and Bill Burke.
    I was very interested in learning about their projects when I saw a photo of the house Lótus.
    I do scientific research in the area of sustainable construction, lean construction and would like to know if you have any scientific article or any author knows this area you can tell me?
    Hugs Light

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