2010 Awards of Excellence: Mill Valley

Courtesy McGlashan Architecture

Extensive Residential

Project: Mill Valley Hillside - 5,500-square foot green roof.
Location: Mill Valley, California
Award Recipient: McGlashan Architecture (architecture & lead green roof designer)
Client: Private
Design Consultation, Plants Installation: Rana Creek
Waterproofing/Drainage: Division 7 Roofing
Landscape Architect: Calandra Design

“The living skin of the earth is a precious resource and a beautiful thing. It just felt right to compensate for disturbing the site with a living roof. Birds, butterflies and bees are regular visitors. After two years, the roof is already a thriving ecosystem, a carpet of life.”
— Scott McGlashan, principal, McGlashan Architecture
Courtesy McGlashan Architecture

Sculpted into a hillside, this green roof helped create a thriving family compound that neighbors *and* nature can also celebrate

The Mill Valley Hillside project shelters three generations, in two separate dwellings, under one green roof. From within each of the three levels, generous openings to the outside offer views of the constantly changing rooftop plantings. From the outside, the house appears as if the living surface of the hillside was peeled up to create naturally conditioned living space below.

Although generous in size, the site presented some challenges that thwarted previous development. A sensitive hillside ecology, a steep slope, development limits, and a passionate and organized coalition of neighbors complicated the clients’ dream. When a green roof was proposed, neighborhood opposition to prior projects turned to enthusiastic support and everyone loved the idea of “lifting” instead of wiping out the living hillside ecology.

From the perspective of the clients, the green roof provided a solution to the greatest design challenge: planning conditions required that the two homes be attached. Stepping the dwellings down the hill would preserve each generation’s privacy and access to views, light, and the ground.

In tune with the surroundings, the rooftop landscape embraces periods of quiet dormancy as well as vibrant flowering and growth. Drought-tolerant plantings, native and fit, alternate between shows of colorful wildflowers and herbs and a display of graceful dry grasses.

The green roof helps the home contribute zero stormwater runoff to municipal gutters or sewers. It also provides acoustic and visual buffering between the units; the grandkids’ drum set is below the roof immediately outside the grandparents’ bedroom window, an intolerable arrangement without.

Of this project, the judges noted that the green roof was “beautifully integrated into environment and landscape” and especially appreciated the “ecological restoration angle” of its design.

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