LAKE BLUFF — Architect Michael Lustig designed a house high atop a San Francisco Bay-area hill using the natural surroundings for many of its enhancements, and it got him national recognition.
Lustig received a 2016 American Architecture Award for the home he designed in Los Altos Hills, Calif. The awards are issued by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design each year, and they were presented at an awards ceremony on Oct. 3 in Chicago.
The Athenaeum is a global institution devoted to public education about concern for the environment. The awards reflect that philosophy, according to Christian Markiewicz-Laine, the organization’s president.
“Architects build in the environment,” said Markiewicz-Laine. “It’s important they consider this so they can have an understanding of the world around them. We want to heighten public awareness for the new designs in the United States.”
More than 1,000 architects submitted buildings or other designs for consideration, according to Markiewicz-Laine. He said the Athenaeum reduced the number to 380 before the finalists were sent to a jury of six architects and educators in Denver for further winnowing. They chose 74 winners including Lustig.
Markiewicz-Laine said the home Lustig designed for a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur and his wife met those criteria. Lustig made use of geothermal wells and window positioning to help heat the house in winter and cool it in summer.
“His was one of a series of homes meeting environmental objectives, aesthetics and sensitive use of material and ecology,” said Markiewicz-Laine. “He did it in a social context.”
Using modern computer technology, Lustig said, he was able to program the latitude and longitude of the lot along with summer and winter prevailing wind conditions. He then determined where to position windows, doors and canopies.
“We used a three-dimensional model of the house to screen the sun in the best way possible,” said Lustig. “We analyzed it in all different ways with twists and turns.” Canopies were added to best shield the sun in both summer and winter.
Lustig said his clients wanted to avoid the use of air conditioning, so he took advantage of the wind along with sliding glass doors to optimize natural ventilation.
Tthe building is situated on the highest point in Los Altos Hills, and Lustig said the microclimate of the area gave it maximum use of wind. Windows were also strategically placed to maximize privacy. Lustig said he went further by using radiant heat in the floors and digging geothermal wells to allow cooling and reduce energy consumption.
“Almost anywhere if you dig deep enough you will find water,” said Lustig. “You bring it up into the house for heating and cooling. The weather there is perfect, not too hot and not too cool. And, it doesn’t make any noise.”
Some of the shapes in the house are unique because building requirements in the community mandate leaving the landscaping intact.
“We couldn’t cut down one tree,” said Lustig. Foliage can be added, however. “We put up a wall of junipers, which shielded the wind for (the client) and the neighbors.”