• courtyard house entry
    • high performance courtyard
    • courtyard rainchain
    • courtyard entry
    • courtyard site plan
    • courtyard great room
    • courtyard tub
    • courtyard meadow

High-Performance Courtyard House

Palo Alto, CA

On a north-sloping acre in Palo Alto, CA, this house is carefully sited and detailed to maximize the experience of its semi-rural site while remaining comfortable year-round. Rigorous design, testing and construction detailing resulted in an elegant, high-performance, low-carbon house that is a frame for sustainable living.

Two shed-roofed volumes, oriented and shaped for passive and active solar, are linked to create a private courtyard. Designed to receive afternoon shade from a stand of mature oaks, the courtyard opens to a hillside meadow and upper pool terrace with vegetable garden.

Balancing high and low technologies, the high performance envelope of exterior insulation, air-sealing, rain-screen siding and interior thermal mass combine with simple solar strategies: overhangs, shading fins, sliding shutters, and espaliered fruit trees. With electric-only appliances, air-to-water heat pump and 6.75 kW photovoltaic array, the house achieves net zero energy, taking the classic California courtyard house to a new level.

Awards and Publications

Environmental Design + Construction, Excellence in Design, Residential Honorable Mention, 2013

Design Team

Project Manager: Dan Johnson
Contractor: Kirk Welton Construction
Photographer: Edward Caldwell