Virginia Beach House


with William McDonough + Partners

A couple with four children were looking for architects in the Virginia Beach and mid-Atlantic region to design a green home to showcase their art collection. The clients hired William McDonough + Parters with Allison Ewing as lead project architect.

The architects drew inspiration for this modern and green design from nearby Virginia Beach docks found up and down Lynnhaven Bay. The billowing roof forms of the main wings and the concrete piers of the grass-roofed center wing visually connect the house to its surrounding Virginia waterfront setting.  The house’s incorporation of wood, concrete, bark paper panels and ample daylight create a warm environment within a modern style.

The Virginia Beach climate and locale both influenced the architect’s design of this award-winning home.  The health of Chesapeake Bay is a concern in Virginia Beach and its watershed.  To ensure any stormwater from the site would be free of pollutants before entering the nearby waterways, the architects incorporated a wetland pond and expanded wetland cove, both important filters for the on-site stormwater. These water features also served to effectively bring the water view closer to the home while elegantly integrating green storm water management best practices.  The roofs, conceived as modern “sails” are south facing to to optimize for passive solar design while anticipating the integration of solar panels in the future.

The architects integrated many green design strategies appropriate to the Virginia Beach region such as: 1)geothermal which takes advantage of the earth’s thermal properties to reduce the heating and cooling costs, 2)radiant floors which use less energy than conventional ducted heating, 3)sustainably harvested woods, 4)a well insulated building envelope with minimal air leakage, 5)passive solar strategies, 6)phytoremediation which uses water plants to decontaminate stormwater from pollutants, 7)roofs designed to accept photovoltaic panels in the future (when they reach market affordability), and a vegetated green roof planted with native grasses.  The green design ambitions of this project led it to win the Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design.

The project has won many other awards and has been widely published.

Client testimonial:  “We love our home which won Custom Home of the Year Award from Custom Home Magazine.  Our house has also been featured on HGTV.  It is a beautiful home designed for our needs.”

The project team included William McDonough + Partners with Allison Ewing as Design Lead and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects.



  • Inform Award, Virginia Society AIA 2003
  • Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design, AIA DC 2002
  • Custom Home of the Year, Custom Home Magazine 2002
  • Honor Award, Central Virginia AIA 2001
  • EcoBuilding Pulse: Inside The Revolution