The owners of four South Bay residences are opening up their homes on Saturday, Oct. 10, for the 2015 Silicon Valley Home Tours. The inaugural event is hosted by the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and will feature architect-designed homes in Palo Alto and Los Altos.
During this self-guided tour, participants will be able to peruse innovative, environmentally friendly homes. Project manager Caroline Kwak said that the tours are meant to show participants the value of working collaboratively with an architect.
"(The event is) meant to be an inspiration not only for the design community, but it shows the homeowners what the potential of their home can be," she said.
AIA's call for entries from March 12 to April 17 garnered about 20 submissions. After Kwak and her team reviewed the applications and visited the homes in person, four of the most energy-efficient and inventive homes made the cut.
In addition to being environmentally conscious, Kwak said the review committee sought out homes that interacted well with their surrounding environments, such as the $1.6 million Desbard Residence in Palo Alto. The single-family, single-story home features vibrant vines hanging from the garage door, a lap pool in the center of the floor plan and an abundance of natural light.
Designed by architect Jo Bellomo, the home also boasts full-height sliding doors and skylights that lend to strong ventilation and outdoor views. The home's use of slag cement reduces the environmental impact of concrete by reducing the overall energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the exposed concrete and wood eliminate the need to paint the exterior. On one side of the home, a fence was created with two layers of wire mesh that were filled with 3/4-inch diameter gravel.
Bellomo, who was raised on cherry and apricot orchards in Sunnyvale, said he built things "endlessly" as a child and never moved too far away from the Midpeninsula for too long. His closet, which he said primarily consists of 12 black T-shirts and a couple pairs of black boots, reflects his simplistic design style.
In addition to his own private residence and office on University Avenue, Bellomo is also known for designing the High/Alma Street parking garage, Facebook's corporate cafe and the 64 bike arcs around Palo Alto. Additionally, he was the 2014 recipient of the Birge Clark Award for his consistent quality of innovative work for more than a decade.
"I'm inspired by reducing our dependency on things," he said. "Most of the inspiration comes from people I know (and) the people I work with. I do find inspiration in the landscape and the texture ... and from good city planners and from cities that have vision."
Bellomo added that sustainability also includes the longevity of a building.
"If a building can withstand the forces for 500 years, that's sustainable ... This house will last forever if it's maintained," he said of the Desbard Residence.
According to Bellomo, another thing he considers when designing an environmentally sensitive home is construction time and waste. He notes the number of vehicular trips can reach up to 40,000 for a single-family home. While building the Desbard Residence, this was reduced by about 25 percent.
This was Bellomo's favorite residential project, due in part to the active collaboration he had with his client a designer.
"She understands the architect's role," he said.
Other homes on the tour include the Elements Home in Palo Alto by Berkeley-based design firm Studio Urbis. The entryway of the home presents a clear view to the interior of the backyard pool.
"Not only can you see the people in the pool but within the home, (you can see) the light reflecting on the ceiling," Kwak said.
Owned by a structural engineer and designed by San Francisco architect Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, another home on the tour named the House for a Structural Engineer features exposed structural elements.
"(They) are exposed as much as they could be to celebrate the material," Kwak said.
Lastly, designed by Arkin Tilt Architects, the High-performance California Courtyard House in Palo Alto is situated on what Kwak likens to a park setting. Although the home is surrounded by larger properties in an affluent area, she said, the homeowners desired to make a well-designed space that fit their needs.
"What the homeowners did was try to build a home what just a home for them ... not a mega mansion," she said.
The tours will take place on Saturday, Oct. 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Before the event, the Meet the Architect Mixer & Design Showcase on Friday, Oct. 9, allows guests to mingle with local architects. Tickets can be purchased online at the AIA Santa Clara Valley chapter website.
What: Silicon Valley Home Tours
When: Saturday, Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Four locations, in Palo Alto and Los Altos. Tickets and directions will be available on the day of the event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Flor Showroom, 321 University Ave., Palo Alto.