Collection by Tiffany Jow

This Net-Zero Residence Might Be the Greenest Home in San Francisco

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A San Francisco architect erects a self-sustaining building in a dense urban neighborhood.

Eco-minded architect David Baker lives, works, and constantly experiments at Shotwell Design Lab, a compound he owns in San Francisco’s Mission District. When he realized he could build a second residential unit in the rear of the property, Baker saw an opportunity to design a demonstration project that tested the latest innovations in sustainablity. The 712-square-foot Zero Cottage became the first net-zero, LEED Platinum, GreenPoint Rated, Passive House-certified residence in San Francisco after its completion in 2013. Passionate about hands-on exploration, Baker designed many of the building elements and furniture himself. Tiny details abound, illustrating the level of attention required for building net-zero in a city. “The beauty of Zero Cottage is that it doesn’t rely on a lot of advanced technology,” Baker says. “On a basic level, these things are within a lot of people’s reach today.”

The compact 712-square-foot cottage sits on top of a 430-square-foot workshop, where Baker’s firm prototypes and...
Metal shingles cut from scraps of sheet metal mix with new material as well as odds and ends, such as a road sign Baker...
Designed and prototyped by David Baker Architects, the building’s siding was made from salvaged maple flooring left...
Outfitted with shelves by EZ Shelving and a generic tool chest, the kitchen’s galvanized steel integrated counter and...
Accessed by a ladder with alternating treads, the sleeping loft features custom casework by Kevin P. Clarke Custom...
Rather than a one-off custom piece, Baker designed the daybed as a prototype and worked with Ohio Design on its...
The house's green roof is more of a brown roof: a desert-like array of native and non-native succulents that require...
As the roof had to be clear for fire department access, Baker developed a cantilevered frame for double-sided solar...
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