Check out the winners of the 2009 Custom Builder Design Challenge -- their unique conceptual designs accommodate three generations.
It's not unusual nowadays for couples on their second marriage, plus children from both marriages and elderly relatives, to live under the same roof. But designing a single residence that works for different age groups, lifestyles and physical capabilities is easier said than done. So we put custom builders, remodelers, architects, residential designers and architecture students to the test: what kind of home would they create for a multigenerational household?
Although the Custom Builder Design Challenge entries are speculative designs that have never been built, they still have to be realistic. For these clients, the home has to be large enough to accommodate everyone comfortably without being a mini-mansion. The lot size has to fit within the parameters of typical suburban home sites while allowing for a variety of outdoor spaces. The floor plan must be flexible in order to adapt to the family’s changing needs. And the home must be energy- and resource-efficient, maintain a healthy indoor environment and have minimal impact on the environment.
We weren’t surprised that many designs included elevators, soccer fields and private patios off the bedrooms. But a few bowled us over with their creativity, and they are well represented here.
In addition to our coverage here and in the November 2009 issue of Custom Builder, the winning designs will be displayed at Professional Builder’s Show Village at the 2010 International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.
Specifics of the 2009 Challenge were as follows:
First Place: Right Angles
Designer: Adam Schmitz, R.L. Just & Associates , Chesterfield, Mo.
This unusual design truly is one of a kind with its angled walls and floor plan. “It looks complicated, yet flows smoothly,” the judges commented.
A landscaped courtyard leads to the home’s entry. Inside, a two-story window wall in the great room provides a breathtaking view. Indoor and outdoor living spaces flow seamlessly into one another. The dining room, for example, has a glass wall that opens completely to the outside, and there is access to outdoor space on every level, including a patio for barbecues and an outdoor lounge with a fireplace.
The in-law suite, which is on the first floor, has an oversized bathroom with an accessible shower. It offers easy access to the main living areas, yet maintains privacy from those areas as well as the master suite.
The two younger children occupy second-floor bedrooms, with a loft for playing, watching TV and studying. The 18-year-old has a bedroom and bath in the basement that can be converted to other uses once the child leaves for college.
Sustainable features include:
• A natural growth screen provided by deciduous trees that shade the southern exposure from harsh summer sunlight and allow the sun to warm it in winter
• A permeable paving system that allows rainwater to percolate into the ground
• A northeast-facing window wall in the great room that captures views and provides ventilation without excessive solar heat gain and glare (cool air enters at ground level while hot air is exhausted out of the second-floor windows)
• Slab-on-grade construction for most of the lower level, reducing the amount of site excavation
• A rainwater harvesting system that filters water through gravel and collects it in an underground catch basin for reuse in landscaping irrigation, clothes washing and flushing toilets
• Exterior walls with steel studs, recycled content and R-40 insulation, prefabricated off site for resource efficiency
Second Place: Perfect Flow
Designer: Tim Dodt, Linderoth Associates Architects , Scottsdale, Ariz.
The judges praised the floor plan and elevations of this modern Southwest design as well as its cost efficiency. The home has a centralized great room for family gatherings; courtyards and patios that act as sheltered outdoor rooms; a basement with informal play space that accesses the backyard; an accessible in-law suite with a private entrance and separate garage on the ground floor; and a laundry room conveniently located between the main house and in-law suite.
Aging-in-place considerations include an elevator that provides access to all levels; an in-law suite that can serve as a future guest suite or rental unit; and secondary bedrooms that can be converted to other uses when the children leave.
The design utilizes a stack-effect concept with operable skylights that allow warm air to escape and cooler outdoor air to flow through the home. The same effect draws heavier, cooler air into the basement, while a stacking operable door system naturally vents and cools the two upper levels. Water features in the courtyards cool the air through evaporation.
Other sustainable features include passive solar design with deep-set windows and roof overhangs; modular construction for resource efficiency; structural insulated exterior wall panels; roof gardens that lower the heat-island effect and harvest rainwater during the summer monsoon season; and drought-resistant native landscaping. Food and herb gardens and a composting station are located near the kitchen.
Third Place: Easy Access
Designer: Alan Curtis, drivearchitecture , Arlington Heights, Ill.
In his review of this design, judge Scott Osterhaus commented, “The scale and forms of the house are very sensitively handled. I like the extension of the terraces to the outdoors.”
An elevator allows elderly or disabled individuals to reach every level, and nearly every room has access to a deck or patio. Even the basement egress is to a patio instead of a window well. The basement also has a stair to grade level; a bedroom and bath that are ideal for the oldest child about to leave for college; and a game room/family room. The parents and two younger children have bedrooms upstairs.
The first-floor bedroom, with its accessible bath, could easily be enlarged by removing the wall between it and the adjacent office. Another alternative is to close off the suite from the rest of the house for use as a rental unit, and give it a private entrance from the courtyard.
Exterior walls are 2-by-6, stick-frame construction with spray foam insulation that pushes the R-value to 35 or higher. There is a limited amount of glass area compared to floor area. The floor/roof construction is 24 inches deep and consists of open-web wood joists and steel columns or beams as needed. The 24-inch depth allows for clear spans, enhanced insulation and space for fan coil units and short duct runs as part of a DX-based geothermal HVAC system.
For its outstanding durability and water resistance, designer Alan Curtis recommended EcoClad siding — 4-by-8 panels made of post-consumer recycled paper products and dense, sustainable bamboo fibers.
Editor's note: Two companies that manufacture the prefab exterior walls specified by the first-place winner are Green Steel Technology  and ThermaSteel Corp.