Gorgeous LEED Platinum Townhouses Completed in San Francisco Park (Photos)


Photo Credit All Pictures: Jaymi Heimbuch
Belles Townhouses is a seven unit multifamily project designed by Living Homes and Kieran Timberlake in the Presidio, a decommissioned military base in San Francisco. It's LEED Platinum, GreenPoint and gorgeous demonstration of how to do green development, from a team I have been watching for years.

I first met Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake at a prefab conference six years ago, where it became obvious that they were just about the most sophisticated thinkers on the subject. They even wrote a book about it in 2003, where they define the problem:

The failure to look at process instead of image has led entire generations of architects to overlook transfer technologies and transfer processes. The new architecture will not be about style, but rather about substance -- about the very methods and processes that underlie making.

Steve Glenn was also at that conference, then just thinking about Living Homes. We met again at Prefab Now, where he unveiled his first house, designed by Ray Kappe. It was one of the first ever to be certified LEED Platinum.

Two years ago I was so excited to see that Living Homes and Kieran Timberlake were working together to develop a more affordable, replicable set of designs. I wrote:

I could only dream of what the result might be if one mixed the talents and innovations of architects like Kieran Timberlake with a business visionary like Steve Glenn and set them to produce small, efficient projects that don't need a Silicon Valley multimillionaire's income to own.

Now we are seeing the results of that collaboration, (with architect of record WRNS Studio and developer Forest City) with the Belles Townhouses. One probably still needs a Silicon Valley multimillionaire's income to rent them, (they are in the best location imaginable and nothing was spared) but they are also a model of how to build green in the city. Steve Glenn describes the project:

"The Presidio is an incredible wilderness in the middle of San Francisco, and it's critical to build new buildings there in a way that minimizes the impact on natural resources. We hope Belles Townhomes set the bar for future projects there. It's also our first foray into multifamily housing, which is arguably the most responsible kind of housing. We hope to make this a major focus for LivingHomes."

Besides LEED Platinum and GreenPoint Rated, it also follows LivingHomes very clever Z6 standard of "zero energy, zero water, zero indoor emissions, zero waste, zero carbon, and zero ignorance." Features include:


  • Energy efficiency. The Townhomes include Energy Star appliances, compact fluorescent lighting, radiant heating and high insulation that will dramatically reduce energy use. They are connected to a solar panel array.

  • Water efficiency. Low flow Kohler water fixtures minimize water usage. Rainwater captured on site or on the building roof is routed to an underground aquifer, reducing the load on the city sewer system during heavy rains.

  • Resource efficiency. The Townhomes include recycled and sustainably harvested materials, including Forest Stewardship Council certified cedar, TREX decking, IceStone and Caesar Stone countertops made of recycled materials, and a SWISSPEARL rainscreen system.

  • Healthy materials. The Townhomes feature no or low Volatile Organic Compound carpets, paints and sealants. Cabinetry is made from formaldehyde free wood.

  • Real-time resource feedback. To give homeowners better clarity on their resource use - and to inspire them to make responsible choices -- each home includes advanced sensors that monitor and manage electricity, water, and gas usage, and that display the information over the internet or on a LCD screen in real-time.


The Belles Townhouses are a new, modern addition in the middle of a huge adaptive reuse project, where a former army hospital is being converted into rental units. It was a gutsy move to make them so strikingly modern in that milieu, and to build LEED platinum rental units, which costs more to build, in a competitive market. But I have expected a lot from this team and they have delivered.

See more photos of the project at Jaymi's Flickr Page

Official Project Team:

Developer: Forest City
Owner: Presidio Trust
Design Architect: KieranTimberlake/LivingHomes
Architect of record: WRNS Studio
General Contractor: Plant Construction Company
Historic Preservation: Page & Turnball
Civil Engineer: Sherwood Design Engineers
Landscape Architect: Conger Moss Guillard
Structural Engineer: Ficcadenti & Waggoner Consulting Structural Engineers, Inc.
MEP Engineer: Guttmann & Blaevoet

I do tend to gush about LivingHomes:
Living Homes: Modern Green Prefab
LivingHomes and Nexterra Green Homes Team Up To Do Modern Green Prefab Right
Living Homes- Modernist Sustainable Prefab
Living Homes Retools For Lower Prices, Wider Distribution
Wired Home by Livinghomes
LivingHomes Awarded LEED for Homes Platinum
The TH Interview: Steve Glenn, Founder and CEO of LivingHomes

And about Kieran Timberlake:
Kieran Timberlake + Living Homes= LBS
Kieran Timberlake To Design American Embassy in London
Critics Pile on the Kieran Timberlake Design for American Embassy In London
What Makes a Building Green? Kieran Timberlake Architects
Home Delivery: Wrapping It Up With The Cellophane House
Loblolly House: Pictures at Last

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