Also known as the Earth Berm House, this 1,700-square-foot three bedroom building serves as a home and as a model and inspiration for others in the Bay Area who wish to steward the environment in creative and responsible ways. The intention of the architect and builder, Tony Tam, a former Hidden Villa board member and principal of Cartmell & Tam Architects was to “design a house that directly responded to Hidden Villa’s commitment to quality staff housing and environmental stewardship.” From the front gate, the house looks rather large because it was designed to let the sun penetrate all rooms by building two offset rectangles joined by the kitchen rather than designed as a traditional rectangle.
This building faces south so that it maximizes the site’s solar capacity and ensures that the active living spaces are a comfortable temperature during the time of day they are being used.
The house contains building materials that provide thermal mass. Furthermore, well-placed windows encourage natural lighting, heating, and cooling The earth berm demonstrates a natural insulating material, as much of it is taken from the site itself. The earth berm also provides privacy and serves as a noise barrier. The energy efficient features are low maintenance and “low tech,” such as the positioning of skylight windows to ventilate rooms without electronic controls. Clerestory windows in the house have lowered temperatures by as much as 12 degrees on a summer day.