Top 10 Sustainable Homes of 2020

From a carbon-negative cabin to a prefab farmhouse, these resourceful designs captivated readers this year.

Sustainable design isn’t just about installing solar panels and recycling gray water—though these solutions are often an important part of the picture. It calls for a deep regard for the environment that informs every step of the design process and gives rise to a dwelling that connects the homeowner to nature in a mindful, holistic way. The low-impact homes that readers most loved this year demonstrate how green living can be fused with design DNA.

10. A Svelte Austin Home Enables Cleverly Compact Living

A net-zero house for a family of five makes the most of its narrow lot with adaptable spaces and frameless floor-to-ceiling windows.

The goal for the first floor was to embrace the shade provided by the mature trees, create a rich material moment, and incorporate all of the storage that the family would need.

A young couple, their son, and two rescue beagles model a grounded lifestyle from their Venice, California, tiny home.

Whitney updated the living room by employing a light palette and rich textures. Beige linen covers the built-in sofa cushions; the pale tone maintains a feeling of spaciousness.

Local architects from McKinney York explain their schemes for two sustainable models designed to give the formerly homeless a permanent place to call their own.

The interior of the McKinney York micro home is light and cheery with an Eames rocking chair donated by Workplace Resources, shades donated by Austin Shade Works, and throw pillows by Briley’s Upholstery Shop.

Designed by North River Architecture & Planning (NRAP) for their Senior Designer, Peter Reynolds, the Accord Passive House is a beacon of sustainable design. The comfortable, affordable, and low-maintenance family home achieved certification from the Passive House Institute US, and it’s topped with a 9kW photovoltaic array that produces more energy annually than the building requires.

An abundance of south-facing windows connect the double-height living room to the outdoors. 

The compact row houses feature carefully angled solar panels that harness every moment of the sun.

The homes’ interiors are open and airy. The ground-floor kitchen opens to the dining room, which leads to the the living area. There, two sets of glass doors provide access to a terrace, expanding available living space.

Perkins & Will designs a mountaintop Passive House that takes energy efficiency to the next level.

The house is currently being used for gatherings and corporate retreats for companies that embrace a philosophy of planetary wellness.

Built of prefabricated cross-laminated timber panels, this barn-inspired home blends into the rural landscape.

An open-plan living/dining/kitchen area occupies the heart of the home and opens up to the outdoors on the north and south sides. Chestnut lines both gabled end walls.

Designed to amplify connections with the desert, a low-lying courtyard house nestles into the landscape.

An extremely rare stump Ironwood specimen with a gnarled growth habit serves as the centerpiece of the interior courtyard. "It’s used to create a metaphor that this new house was built within a native grove of Ironwoods," says Matt Thomas. The courtyard also helps passively cool the house.

A young family embraces New Zealand farm life with a sustainable prefab home.

The all-timber build helps establish a continuous indoor/outdoor living experience. The interior cross-laminated timber flooring transitions to radiata pine at the outdoor deck.

A house in Sydney combats climate change with its own ecosystem.

A kitchen and dining area bleed into indoor and outdoor living spaces that have unobstructed views of the city skyline. 


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