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This Net-Zero Cottage Takes Tiny Houses to a Whole New Level

This Net-Zero Cottage Takes Tiny Houses to a Whole New Level

While we were scrolling through adorable photos of tiny houses, the San Francisco–based architect David Baker was doing backyard homesteaders one better with an ambitious project of his own. With its shiny recycled-metal rain screen and jauntily angled rooftop solar array, the 712-square-foot Zero Cottage is both charming and formidably sustainable.

The structure has already made LEED for Homes Platinum and scored 203 GreenPoints, and it is targeting Passivhaus and net-zero energy. When all the certifications come in, the cottage will have more titles per square foot than Denver’s prefab tiny Starbucks.


For the cottage’s vegetated roof, Baker used recycled motorcycle tires as planters.

Built over a ground-floor workshop, the cottage is a narrow, vertical column of rooms. A steep metal stepladder leads from the kitchen and living area on the first level to the bed and bath upstairs. Baker salvaged the cottage’s wood floors from an Oakland pasta factory on the site of Tassafaronga Village, one of David Baker + Partners Architects’ many affordable housing developments in the Bay Area.

With high-efficiency insulation, triple-glazed windows, and a heat-recovery ventilator, the cottage stays warm year-round without a heating system (though San Francisco’s never-freezing climate deserves some credit, too).

For the past two years, Baker has been chronicling the construction process on the Zero Cottage blog. Designing for oneself can make experimenting easier: On his website, the architect muses about his experiments with the metal rainscreen. The tiles, which contain some mirror stainless steel, produce reflections that, he writes, might cause problems in a public space. And then there’s the noise: “The tiles rattle a bit in the wind. I choose to think of this as a charming effect similar to rain on a steel roof. Others might not be so amused.”

All images courtesy of David Baker + Partners Architects

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

Lamar Anderson is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Architectural Record, ARTnews, the Hairpin, and Salon. All posts »

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