When David and Suzanne Rinaldo approached Feldman Architecture to design a retirement home in California’s Santa Lucia Preserve, they said they wanted a design like “a butterfly landing in a meadow.” Inspired by their vision, the architects created the Butterfly House, a contemporary home split into three butterfly roof-topped pavilions that sit lightly on the land. More than just a beautiful dwelling with panoramic valley views, the eco-friendly passive house demonstrates superior water and energy conservation strategies.
Set within the beautiful and private 20,000-acre Santa Lucia Preserve near Carmel, California, the Butterfly House celebrates the surrounding landscape with a small environmental footprint, full-height glazing for views, and a lovely native garden designed by Bernard Trainor + Associates. To further embrace the outdoors, the house is divided into three smaller pavilions, each topped with a butterfly roof and spread out in a radial formation. The central and largest pavilion houses the main living, dining, and kitchen areas, and is attached to a smaller pavilion that contains a bedroom and bathroom via a covered bridge with an office. The third, stand-alone pavilion serves guests and houses two bedrooms, baths, and a family room.
Though the butterfly roofs were initially chosen for aesthetic reasons, they are also used to harvest rainwater, which flows down Japanese rain chains and into concrete cisterns. The cisterns, which hold a total of 33,000 gallons, passively release water into the meadows. During the rainy season, water will flow beneath the office bridge. The roof also allows for extra ventilation and helps shade the full-height panoramic glazing—the largest glass walls are on the south—from glare.
The interior’s neutral color palette mostly comprises black steel, concrete, and glazing, and keeps the emphasis on the colorful outdoor landscape. The ten-inch thick concrete walls and large expanses of glazing serve as heat sinks to absorb heat during the day and then release it at night to passively warm the house; heating gets an extra boost from radiant floor heating. A 7kWh rooftop solar array powers about half of the home’s minimal energy needs.
Images via Feldman Architecture