Bionic Houses - Pioneertown House


Lloyd Russell, architect for the “green” house on Burns Canyon Road in Pioneertown, refers to his “handmade modernism”: sharp design and better, affordable construction.



Lloyd Russell, architect for the “green” house on Burns Canyon Road in Pioneertown, refers to his “handmade modernism”: sharp design and better, affordable construction. The architecture features sleek lines and sundry materials that enhance the structure and lifestyle. For example, he uses metal siding that does not burn, a concrete slab that acts as a thermal mass to insulate from the outside, and low-E glass to eliminate thermal gain.

With the architecture prominently framing its outdoor spaces, the house appears larger than its actual square footage. “I realized how many times during the day that the desert becomes beautiful for different reasons,” Russell says. “The house engages the desert like a flower opening up — when it is appropriate.”

Inside and outside areas benefit from gray-water recycling, which “hardly costs anything and you get a garden in return,” Russell beams. Nurturing stimulates growth and replaces lot deterioration.

The house also uses a tankless water heater, which uses less gas and lasts longer than a traditional water heater, which eventually wears out, rusts, and needs replacement.

• Gray-water recycling
• Tankless water heater
• Metal siding
• Low-E glass
• Concrete slab
• Shade structure
• Reusing galvanized tanks for bathtubs
• Dual-flush toilets
• LED exterior lighting
• Induction range (heats only close contact)

Ready, aim, fire! The phrase almost trivializes the tedium architects endure when designing “smart” houses in the desert. After homeowners declare themselves “ready” to build with sustainable materials and energy-efficient features, architects “aim” the structure, accounting for the angles of the sun and the direction of the wind during the season. Then they “fire” up construction with autonomous features.

These bionic houses sometimes come at a bold price (but they don’t have to), and they begin paying back through eco-conscious features, such as tankless water heaters, solar photovoltaic panels, and energy-efficient lighting.

We visited three houses — two in Palm Springs and one in Pioneertown in the High Desert — whose owners are committed to preserving and conserving and asked their architects to talk about their designs.

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