David Hertz Architects FAIA & The Studio of Environmental Architecture

McKinley Residence

Project Description 

This residence, home to Hertz and his family, was designed in two phases. The first phase featured two separate volumes connected by a bridge. Some years later the adjacent lot became available. It is now a compound made up of four discrete two-story buildings linked by three enclosed bridges that all face onto the courtyard, in a style one might call Balinese Modern.

His solution was to make the house the greenest house of its size he’d ever seen. Hertz used this house as a case study for green building techniques. An array of 20 solar collector panels on the roof help generate about 70 percent of the home’s electricity needs, and other sections of the roof are given over to flat-plate collectors that provide hot water to the water heater, which then sends it into a radiant heating system in the concrete floors.

The materials used were chosen carefully to support environmental sustainability and the design intent. Recycled and FSC certified sustainable woods such as Ipe, Mahogany, and Fir, are used throughout the house. And much of the concrete is Syndecrete®, which contains about 41 percent recycled content and is twice as light, with twice the compressive strength, of normal concrete. The material acts inside the house as a kind of “solar sink” for passive solar energy transfer, storing up the sun’s warmth during the day, and thus keeping it from overheating the interior, and then slowly releasing that heat during the night. Syndecrete® flooring was chosen for several reasons; it eliminates mold and dust caused by carpet, requires less maintenance, and is more environmentally sensitive than carpet, wood, or other floor finishes. In order to maintain excellent indoor air quality, the architect used zero VOC paint, and eliminated a forced air system and carpeted floors, progenitors of mold and dust.

This building is a successful study in architecture that is both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible and was rewarded the Sustainable Living Award by the Eco Home network.

Environmental Features

Passive Ventilation – eliminating the need for a forced air system

Solar Energy – an array of 20 solar panels on the roof supply around 70% of the home’s energy needs

Photovoltaic Panels and Flat Plate Collectors – providing hot water to the water heater and subsequently the radiant heating system in the concrete floors

Vacuum tubing on the roof, which uses a parabolic collector to focus the sun’s rays, provides additional hot water

Recycled FSC certified sustainable woods such as Ipe, Mahogany and Fir

Much of the concrete is Syndecrete®, a light-weight concrete that uses 41% recycled content

Zero VOC paints

Concrete floors

High performance heat-mirror glazing

The pool system uses an ionization and silver filter, eliminating the need for chlorine

Illustration of air flow through the McKinley House:

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mckinley residence

This residence has grown overtime, becoming a laboratory for new ideas in green design. The building compound combines both passive and high-tech sustainable systems for exemplary environmental performance. Natural light is abundant, and windows and doors are arranged to promote natural ventilation; an effect augmented by thermostatic controls. The roof is critical to the building’s performance, generating 90% of the home’s energy through solar panels. Other rooftop surfaces include edible gardens and collectors that absorb heat and distribute it through the building’s radiant heating.

The residence was designed in two phases. The first phase featured two volumes connected by a bridge. When the adjacent lot became available, a new building was erected connected by a third bridge to realize a central courtyard. On a large scale, the masses are defined by a grid of glass, concrete, and wood—reflecting the aesthetic influence of Rudolph Schindler and Indonesian vernacular. On a more granular level, a variety of unique, idiosyncratic details and moments inform the architectural experience. Harmonizing craft, design, and environmental performance, McKinley is a residential Gesamtkunstwerk.


Project Details

Year: 2003
Location: Venice, CA
Typology: single family residence
Program: 5 bed, 6 full bath, 2 half bath
Size: 5,900 sqft
Sustainable Features:
  • photovoltaic panels (90% of energy use)
  • vacuum tubing, evacuated tube, flat plate collectors for water heating
  • Syndecrete (41% recycled content)
  • high performance heat mirror glazing
  • natural lighting
  • passive ventilation
  • hydronic radiant heating
  • thermostatic window and skylight controls (infloor, exterior sensors)
  • recycled FSC certified sustainable wood
  • zero VOC paint
  • zero chlorine pool (ionization; silver, copper, and platinum oxidizer)
Photography: Elizabeth Daniels, Laura Doss, Shane King, Juergen Nogai, Sara Tollefson, Fawn Art

Stills from the film Ride (2014), starring, written and directed by Helen Hunt.




  • The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture (McKinley House) Download PDF

  • Vanity Fair, Oct 2010 Download PDF

  • Dwell Magazine "100 Houses We Love" (Featuring McKinley House), 2010 Download PDF


  • Garden Design, McKinley House 06/08

  • World’s Greenest Homes Discovery Channel (McKinley House) 05/08


  • Off The Grid Homes (McKinley House) Download PDF

  • Kitchen Trends, vol23 no2, featuring the McKinley House Download PDF

  • House and Laboratory, featuring the McKinley House

  • Kinhte & DoThi, featuring the McKinley House Download PDF

  • IdealesHEIM, featuring the McKinley House


  • Sunset - Outdoor Living, September, featuring the McKinley House

  • HGTV Designer’s Portfolio, featuring various projects

  • Variety Weekend, August, featuring McKinley House poolbath

  • Variety Weekend, July, featuring McKinley House

  • ED+C, Excellence in Design Awards finalist, McKinley House

  • Cruising LA Handbook, featuring McKinley House

  • The Independent Magazine, July 29, featuring McKinley House

  • H2O, Vol7, No.2, featuring David Hertz

  • LA Time Home, May, featuring McKinley House

  • BusinessWeekOnline, May, featuring multiple projects

  • Times Journal of Construction + Design, April, featuring Syndecrete®

  • Bathroom TRENDS, Vol 21 no 10, featuring Syndecrete®

  • Dwell, December/January, featuring the McKinley House Download PDF


  • Architectural Coatings, July, featuring the McKinley House Download PDF

  • Better Homes & Gardens, May, featuring Syndecrete®

  • Child Magazine, May, featuring the McKinley House

  • Distinction, May/June, featuring the McKinley House Download PDF

  • Custom Home, April, featuring Syndecrete®

  • LivingETC (England), August, featuring McKinley House Download PDF

  • Los Angeles Magazine, February, featuring the McKinley House

  • Los Angeles Times –HOME, June 30, featuring McKinley House Download PDF

  • Malibu Times, Sep./Oct., featuring the McKinley House Download PDF

  • Organic Style, July/August, featuring the McKinley House Download PDF

  • Outside, April, featuring the McKinley House Download PDF

  • Sunset Magazine, July, featuring the McKinley House

  • The Argonaut, featuring the McKinley House


  • The Robb Report, October 2004, featuring McKinley House Download PDF

  • Yogi Times, July-August, featuring the McKinley House addition

  • GA Houses 81, featuring the McKinley House addition Download PDF and Binder Residence Download PDF


  • Vlife (Featuring McKinley House), 2003 Download PDF

  • Dwell, March/April, featuring Syndecrete®

  • Custom Home, April, featuring Syndecrete®

  • Variety, October, “Green Chic” by Janelle Brown, featuring the McKinley House and David Hertz, AIA Architects.

  • GA Houses 74: Project 2003 featuring the McKinley House addition Download PDF

  • Fine Homebuilding, January, “Concrete, Timber and Glass” featuring McKinley House

  • Dwell, June, “House of Seven Patios”

  • GA Houses 67, featuring McKinley House and Hess Tilt-Up Slab House Download PDF


  • Dwell, December, “How Families Live with Cutting Edge Design”, Cover article featuring the McKinley House residence Download PDF