December 20 2011

Environmental Design: A Look At The Swall Institute in Mammoth Lakes, California

Swall Institute

Looking for an environmentally friendly, quiet, workspace surrounded by the serenity of nature? The Swall Institute is your answer. A small residence designed for flexible use, located outside of Mammoth Lakes, California, The Swall Institute acts as an incubation space for individuals and groups who work better when they have access to the great outdoors. 

The 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house was constructed on the premises of “Sustainable Design,” on a tight budget. It can host up to 3-4 individuals and features high speed wireless, three individual desk spaces and monitors, a laser printer/scanner/copier, a chalkboard, a projector, projection screen, and a large dining room table that doubles as collaborative work space.

Some of the environmental design options utilized at the Swall Institute include:

  • An open floor plan, making the house easier to heat and fill with natural light;

  • A small size (1250 ft2 or 135 m2) required less building materials and labor, and therefore, made it less expensive to build for the architects. It also gives it a cozy feel that encourages the creative and playful use of space;

  • An open loft provides vertical complexity and open space that makes the house appear larger than it is;

  • A simple roof line and square angles in the architecture design of the shell of the house helped to cut construction costs while creating an elegant, contemporary look;

  • Decorative wood and stained floors give the contemporary, “boxy” design, warmth and coziness.

The Swall Institute provides an example of how environmental home design can be done at the affordable scale. The architects utilized a variety of inexpensive, environmentally-friendly supplies including: a recycled metal roof, bamboo plywood, LED lighting, radiant floor tubing, an energy efficient condensing boiler, low E double-pane windows, recycled cork flooring, and a salvaged bathtub, sinks, furniture, and appliances, as well as used solar collectors.

 In what other ways can design be environmentally-friendly?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Patricia Kent

Patricia Kent wrote for The GRID between October 2011 and October 2012. During this time she was a graduate student in Community & Regional Planning with a concentration in Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico. She was also a recent transplant to Mammoth Lakes, CA. Her interests ranged from political theory and public policy to sustainable tourism. A strong advocate for participatory planning practices, her studies focused on community capacity building and economic development. She believed in fostering entrepreneurship in communities. Currently, Patricia is working on economic sustainability policies that benefit both the preservation of the Eastern Sierras as well as the ever-increasing tourist population.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 at 8:52 am and is filed under Architecture, Energy, Environment, Environmental Design, Housing, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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