Top green home designs in the West

Sustainable materials and eco-friendly design principles reign at these exemplary low-impact homes

Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired prefab house

Photo by Bill Timmerman; written by Allison Arieff

Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired prefab house

The optimism and vision of Taliesin students are visible everywhere in this smart prefab located in Scottsdale, AZ. The result of a design/build class taught by Jennifer Siegal and Michael P. Johnson, it’s a dynamic, livable house that honors Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy while tackling important design issues of today, from innovative prefabrication to sustainable systems like solar panels and rainwater and gray-water collection.

More: Learn about the Taliesen Mod.Fab home and other 2009-2010 Western Home Awards winners

Cargotecture homes

Photo by Jack Parsons Photography; written by Allison Arieff

Home in an upcycled shipping container

Like heavy Legos, shipping containers made of steel or aluminum can be used as an inexpensive, and stronger than average, building block. Resistant to such forces as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, containers are naturally suited to such humanitarian projects as post-disaster housing and community centers but their versatility has also captured the imagination of designers and architects worldwide who’ve used them for everything from highrises to rustic cabins. In fact, there are enough cool container structures around to constitute a movement: some call it Cargotecture. Pictured is Eco Tech, the first repurposed container home permitted and built in CA's Mojave Desert, is one great example.

More: 7 innovative Cargotecture homes

Recycled jumbo jet

Photo by Dave Lauridsen; written by Kathleen N. Brenzel

Home in an recycled airplane

Home of the future, extreme recycling, or just plain eccentric? We can’t decide. But this house, built from a deconstructed 747 jumbo jet, is what we’d like to see more of in the future: Let’s call it industrial-strength prefab.

More: How a junked jumbo jet became a home

Johnson family; Zero-waste home

Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain

The zero-waste home

On trash day in Mill Valley, California, the Johnson home has no garbage. Nothing. There is a hefty compost bin and a teeny recycling bin—one that Béa Johnson is embarrassed exists at all. “So much recycling really goes to waste, so you need to try to reduce that too.” Garbage, though, is something that happens rarely in this modern, minimalistically decorated house. That’s by day-to-day intention—to live simpler and lighter on the planet. Their quest started three years ago when Béa and husband Scott downsized from a 3,000-square-foot home to their current 1,400 square feet.

More: Peek inside the zero-waste home and see Béa Johnson's answers to reader questions

LEED-certified treetop home

Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Jess Chamberlain

LEED-certified treetop home

This home in Mill Valley, California was built on a small hillside lot which made for a challenging vertical floor plan. To compensate for lack of yard space, the home has as many outdoor rooms as it does indoor. On top of being breathtakingly beautiful, the 2,100-square-foot house was named the first LEED for Homes Platinum home in Marin County in 2010.

More: Take a room-by-room tour

San Francisco Idea House

Photo by Thomas J. Story

San Francisco Idea House

This unusual home in San Francisco is packed with ideas for living in style while being earth-friendly, too. From reclaimed-wood floors to salvaged fencing outdoors, the design makes smart use of green materials.

More: Take a room-by-room tour

Eco-friendly desert home

Eco-friendly desert home

Geothermal systems that heat and cool the house and solar panels providing power, let The Utah House (near Moab, UT) sit relatively lightly on a dramatic landscape.

More: Learn about the Taliesen Mod.Fab home and other 2009-2010 Western Home Awards winners

Self-sufficient home

Photo by Ed Caldwell

Self-sufficient home

The torn-paper profile of the Sierra Nevada makes a rugged backdrop for this angular, contemporary home that employs alternative construction techniques and solar technologies. Thick walls of rammed earth use straw bales as low-cost insulation. Salvaged lumber was turned into beams, flooring, and interior siding. Kitchen counters incorporate recycled glass. Solar-heated water circulates in a radiant-heat floor that is further warmed by winter sun. In summer, the roof overhang shades windows, while thick, highly insulated walls keep it from overheating. Photovoltaic panels on the roof and on a trellis make the house largely independent from the utility power grid.

More: Discover more innovative Western Home Awards winners

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