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Wiser Living

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Green Architecture Spotlight: The Marrakesh House

by Kristin Standley

Tags: green architecture spotlight, sustainable architecture, green design, Marrakesh House, Chris Paine,

Hollywood is going green. On June 6, filmmaker Chris Paine (“Who Killed the Electric Car”) had a big debut. However, this time it wasn’t a film he was showing, but his newly remodeled, sustainable house. Dubbed the Marrakesh House because of its Moroccan design, this home blends green design with artistic whimsy.


Marrakesh house
The atrium of the Marrakesh House. Photo Courtesy Marrakesh House.  

The house was originally a 4,300 square foot home from the 1950s, but Paine has worked with a design team lead by project manager Shellie Collier, a LEED-accredited professional, to create a modern, green demonstration home. The idea for the Moroccan theme came from the positioning of the original structure around a central courtyard, mirroring the form of traditional riads. Throughout the house, Islamic design motifs blend with modern architecture to create a look that is truly unique. 

Paine and Collier used a variety of techniques to make the Marrakesh House as sustainable as possible. By reusing materials from the original house they were able to eliminate 75 percent of the waste that usually accompanies a remodel. Outside, the plants in the garden need little water. Many are native to southern California and the rest are edible. The retaining walls around the property were all made from construction waste materials claimed from other sites in the area. 

Marrakesh house solar panals
Chris Paine and the solar panels on the house. Photo Courtesy Marrakesh House. 

Solar panels heat water, providing enough for four people. The photovoltaic solar system on the roof also provides about 60 percent of the house’s electricity. Inside, high-efficiency lighting such as CFL and LED bulbs in conjunction with dimmers and motion sensors cut down a startlingly large percentage of energy use. 

Marrakesh House also makes use of sustainable materials to lessen its impact on the environment. All of the wood in the house is Forest Stewardship Council-certified. The stone floors are not only natural but will last for thousands of years. All of the cabinets in the house are created from formaldehyde-free bamboo. 

Other touches such as low-flow toilets and faucets, no-VOC paint and the three electrical vehicle charging stations in the garage add to the sustainability of the house. But this house isn’t only about appearing high-tech. A collaboration of artists and designers have helped Paine prove that green living can be whimsically fun. The Marrakesh House doubles not only as a private residence, but also as an art, music and culture venue. 

A green home with decided personality, the Marrakesh House certainly is a new breed of sustainable building.