California Earthsheltered Home Nestles Into Marin Hillside
Dug deep into a steep hill lot in Mill Valley, a very green home for two generations is cleverly designed to maintain harmony with the natural world and allocate privacy and connection to an extended family that shares a deep love of the peace and tranquility of California’s eternal summers.
Near the coast of Marin county, Mill Valley is subject to fog, yet mild.
Designed by the Berkeley architectural firm, McGlashan Architecture to be conservation minded and respectful of nature; the building leaves almost no footprint.
Zoning rules restricted the building to a single house on the large site, so the architect created two houses in one: the main unit (for parents) on the top floor, and a second unit for their daughter and her family on the lower floor. Between them, the middle floor is a shared space.
Skylights set into the green roofs of each level illuminate the room below.
Quintessential California dreaming. As you look out across the green roofs, the only hint of any human habitat below comes in the form of the skylights.
As the crow flies downhill, the building itself appears from out of the hillside. By contrast with the extreme simplicity of the unfinished natural living roofs separating each floor of the house —the home itself is truly urbane and sophisticated.
Echoing the deep rocky hillside that the house is set into, stone accompanies you as you tread deep down within the building.
From the master bath, there are more views of the green roof outside.
In California, as Joni Mitchell pointed out a half century ago, “we’ve paved paradise; put up a parking lot.” And parking lots don’t mix well with droughts.
In California, we need to keep every precious drop of rain that falls. Green roofs hold onto rainwater, so this design is sensitive to California’s increasingly drought prone climate.
It is also energy efficient in that it is dug into the hillside; it is an earthsheltered house. This creates an even temperature summer and winter without heating or air conditioning.