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Awards Category

Residential Architecture - Built

Project Summary

CAMPout is located in the shadow of an 8,000 foot extinct volcano in the Sierra Nevada. A courtyard driven, earth sheltered, insulated concrete ground form and engineered wood framework clad in weathering steel reflects a focus on material durability, passive energy, and wildfire survivability. The site sits at the base of a mountain on a north-facing slope at 6,400 feet above sea level with views to a valley below, surrounded by neighbors. Heavy winter snow adds a 200-pound-per-square-foot snow load to the roof design. The program included consideration of construction systems and materials to withstand natural disasters along with reflection of contextual attributes. The requested program included a four-bedroom main house with private outdoor space.

Project Narrative

A San Francisco family with a passion for outdoor recreation reached out to us to help them expand this property near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada. Their outdoor pursuits include ice climbing, winter camping, and backcountry skiing. Located on a North facing slope, the site looks down to Martis Valley and up to the south to Lookout Mountain: an 8000’ extinct volcano seen through a natural screen of 100-year-old Jeffrey and sugar pine trees. The house reflects the clients’ love of camping and exploring. To tap into their enhanced experience of the natural landscape, a courtyard plan evolved as a formal device that connects the occupants with the natural environment. The 3,600 square foot program includes four sleeping rooms, a gathering space, garage and private outdoor space. The client describes, “It was the architect's idea to be inside and outside at the same time – which is just our thing. It’s a base camp for me and my family, where we can ski in and out.” The house digs incrementally into the slope, with sleeping areas wrapping the courtyard earning light and privacy from neighbors that surround the property. The family gathering space is a south facing concrete pavilion that connects the courtyard to the distant view beyond. A thin steel shed roof pitches up to open the interior to the southern sun and views to ski runs on the mountain. The house reflects the clients’ love of exploring the backcountry. At night, the spaces surrounding the courtyard are activated by the flickering light of the fire pit.

Sustainable Design & Materials

Passive strategies provide a means to naturally heat, cool, and ventilate the space. A deep south roof overhang shades the interior from heat gains in the summer, and high clerestory glazing provides heat gains from the low winter sun. Highly insulated assemblies such as cast in place, insulated concrete walls provide energy stores. Additionally, snowmelt is captured in below grade rain stores that recharge the natural aquifer. An enhanced filtration and cooling system protect the interior air quality during fires and high smoke periods. When the air is clear, large doors open to the courtyard, allowing prevailing breezes to naturally cool the space. Heat is provided by high-efficiency radiant floors covered with basalt, mimicking the behavior of the surrounding boulders in the natural landscape. Insulated concrete walls, a roof of corrugated and ½” plate steel coupled with an aggregate covered fire rated membrane, and steel sash glazing form the fire resistive shell. Glazing is limited at the exterior interface with the combustible surroundings, and maximized in the courtyard, where the light and screen of the forest safely connects with the interior. Just after completion of this project, the Caldor Fire came within 25 miles and destroyed over 1,000 structures.

Project Stats

Square Feet


Green Building Designation(s)

Date of Completion

August 2019

Project Location

9506 Cloudcroft Ct, Truckee, CA 96161, USA

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