Phoenix often is thought of as a city of relentless sprawl. The Galleries at Turney seeks to shatter that stereotype by demonstrating what thoughtful, attractive and efficient design can accomplish on a tightly constrained site. The innovative townhomes were the winners of the “greenhouse” category of eco-structure’s inaugural Evergreen Awards. “Smart location and proper land use are critical elements of the climate-change agenda, as vehicle emissions are a significant portion of the total U.S. greenhouse-gas problem,” says Evergreen Awards judge Bert Gregory, FAIA, president and chief executive officer of Seattle-based Mithun. “This resource-smart set of single-family homes is developed at a density that has the potential to promote walking and mass transit. With a strong architectural concept and an elegant design, it looks like a great place to live, too.”


The opportunity to address Phoenix’s suburban-style planning standards is precisely what intrigued the architects when Ed Gorman, founder of Phoenix-based Modus Development, first described his vision for creating homes that blended the best of Arizona living with the cultural intensity of an urban location. “We love to be catalysts—to start the ball rolling,” says Jonah Busick, project director for Phoenix-based [merz] project, the design firm for the project. “[Galleries at Turney] is architecture as activism. It has helped turn a neighborhood that is in transition into a more livable community. The buildings are closer to the street and the landscaping includes trees that partially shade the sidewalk so it’s more pleasant to walk by.” Achieving these qualities while complying with code and zoning requirements posed unique challenges. “If we had submitted Galleries at Turney as a single-family development, we would have had to provide wider side yards and a boulevard down the middle of the site,” Busick says. “It would have been impossible to build enough homes to make the project feasible.

Under the commercial requirements we could have squeezed in another unit, but we didn’t want to create cell blocks.” The architects devised a new hybrid home that fills a niche for multifamily housing located near transit lines, commercial centers and public amenities while retaining the scale and privacy many homebuyers desire. “The units are freestanding and were permitted as singlefamily residences,” explains Joe Herzog, AIA, co-founder of [merz] project and design architect for Galleries at Turney.

“But the project went through commercial-planning and code-review processes.” Placed 15-feet (4.6-m) apart on a 0.6-acre (0.3- hectare) site, each townhome averages 2,000 square feet (186 m2) in size and features two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen adjoining a living/dining area, den/office, an enclosed garage, a gallery/reception area and media room. Patios, courtyards and balconies extend living space to the outdoors. Large openings and half-height walls blur barriers between rooms on the main level. For example, the den/ office has a half-height glass balcony wall overlooking an area that could serve as a living room, dining room or both. This flexibility encourages occupants to optimize space by relating room functions to their specific needs.


Although Gorman is pleased that Galleries at Turney has been certified under the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes rating system, he says he’s “never separated green from great design.” “We were in the midst of preliminary design when the LEED-H program was finalized,” Gorman recalls. “We reviewed the requirements and realized the most significant change we’d have to make was to use triple coated, low-E glass. This added to the cost, but it was one of the best decisions we made. I’ve stood next to a window on a day when the exterior temperature is 110 F [43 C] or more and virtually no heat passes through the glass.”

Other aspects of the building envelope are designed to address the climatic extremes of Phoenix. The open cells in the concrete masonry units used to construct the exterior walls are insulated to slow the rate of heat absorption. The roof system consists of 16-inch (406-mm) manufactured lumber joists and 1/2-inch (13-mm) plywood sheathing covered with up to 4 inches (102 mm) of nontoxic foam insulation. A white coating reflects sunlight away from each unit. Corrugated zinc and fiber-reinforced cement panels mounted to vertical tracks float 1 inch (25 mm) out from the exterior wall surfaces to create a sunscreen system that cools the structures by convection. “The building shades itself,” Gorman says. “A local representative from the [Washington-based] U.S. Department of Energy took measurements using the ground-level concrete floor as a baseline. Most homes have at least a 10 F [6 C] differential between the baseline and their walls and windows. Our differential was 3 to 4 F [1.6 to 2.2 C]. Our roof showed zero heat gain.” The architects chose zinc and cement fiberboard for exterior cladding because the materials are attractive, recyclable and virtually maintenance free.

The exterior walls and roof simply need to be sprayed with water to keep them clean. “We like the way natural light changes the appearance of the fiberboard,” Herzog says. “It is almost white in bright sunlight and its color deepens as evening approaches. The corrugated surface of the zinc intensifies the contrast between light and shadow.” Sizing the homes according to the modular unit of the CMU block and employing full- or half-size sheets of cement fiberboard helped reduce jobsite waste to less than half the average calculated by the Washington-based National Association of Homebuilders, which is 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of waste per square foot of conditioned space. The carpet and insulation each contain 80 percent recycled content.


Energy-conservation measures included specifying equipment that carries the Energy Star label from the Washington-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Fluorescent lights are used for ambient illumination, track lights and specialized fixtures employ dimmers, and timers are set for exterior lighting. “Tests have shown we already met our goal of being 50 percent better than [International Energy Conservation Code] standards,” Gorman says. “We think we’ll exceed this goal over time. The most recent monthly electricity bill we received for our galleries model was around $100 compared with $400 to $500 typically paid for homes of this size.” Solar power was cost prohibitive when planning for Galleries at Turney first began in 2005. “We have 350 days of sunshine in the valley, so we designed the roof and pre-wired the electrical system to accommodate a 4-kilowatt solar array in the future,” Gorman notes. “We even reserved a space for an inverter so excess electricity generated by solar systems can be sold back to the power company. Solar panels now are half the price they were three years ago and twice as efficient. Solar will be standard for all our future developments.”

Water is another important resource in Phoenix’s climate. A drip-irrigation system employs a moisture sensor to deliver water on an as-needed basis to individual, drought-resistant plants. Lowflow toilets, fixtures and faucets further conserve this precious resource. Gorman estimates the total water used by the eight townhomes is less than that used by the two single-family homes that previously existed on this site. The interior design for Galleries at Turney marries minimalism, elegance and sustainability. Flooring ranges from polished concrete to limestone, carpet tiles and bamboo. The dark oak finish of the kitchen cabinetry contrasts with the crisp white of the countertops and low-VOC painted walls.

Windows are strategically located to introduce abundant natural light while preserving privacy. Depending on their orientation, units have spectacular views of the downtown Phoenix skyline to the south or Camelback Mountain, Phoenix North Mountain Preserve and the Esplanade and Biltmore buildings to the north. “Not only does Galleries at Turney satisfy environmental requirements, it does so in a manner that transcends ordinary paradigms of sustainability,” says Evergreen Awards judge Tom Glaysher with Flad Architects, Gainesville, Fla. “The homes create a simple, clean and sophisticated architecture.”

Heather Beal writes about architecture and sustainability from Edina, Minn.


Concrete Masonry Units / SUPERLITE BLOCK, Phoenix,

Exterior Fiber Cement Panels / CEMENT BOARD FABRICATORS, Louisville, Ky.,

Zinc Siding / RHEINZINK AMERICA INC., Cambridge, Mass.,

Roofing / Elastospray polyurethane foam roofing system from BASF, Florham Park, N.J.,

Glazing / CARDINAL GLASS, Eden Prairie, Minn.,

HVAC Equipment / TRANE, Montvale, N.J.,

Millwork / MAISTRI LA CUCINE, Corrubbio di Negarine, Italy,

Stone Tile / DAL-TILE CORP., Dallas,

Bamboo Flooring / Plyboo Neopolitan from SMITH AND FONG, San Francisco,

Carpets / BENTLEY PRINCE STREET, Los Angeles,

Countertops / CAESARSTONE, Van Nuys, Calif.,

Low-Flow Fixtures / KOHLER CO., Kohler, Wis.,

Low-Flow Kitchen Faucet / HANSGROHE INC., Alpharetta, Ga.,

Half-Bath Sink / DURAVIT, Hornberg, Germany,

Low-Flow Fixtures / KOHLER CO., Kohler, Wis.,

Refrigerator / Evolution 500 series by BOSCH HOME APPLIANCES, Huntington Beach, Calif.,

Natural-Gas Cooktop / PGL series from BOSCH HOME APPLIANCES WALL OVEN / 500 series from BOSCH HOME APPLIANCES

Dishwasher / Integra Series from BOSCH HOME APPLIANCES

Lighting / WAC LIGHTING, Garden City, N.Y.,

Lighting Controls, Dimmers and Timers / LUTRON, Coopersburg, Pa.,


Owner and Developer / Modus Development, Phoenix,

Architect and Interior Design / [merz] project, Phoenix,

Landscape Architecture Firm / Chris Winters & Associates, Phoenix, (602) 955-8088

HVAC and Plumbing Engineers / Akribis Engineering, Phoenix,

Electrical Engineers / Woodward Engineering, Tempe, Ariz.,

Structural Engineers / BDA Engineers, Chandler, Ariz., (480) 423-8555

General Contractor / Urban Edge Builders, Scottsdale, Ariz.,

Third-Party Testing / VERIFICATION / D.R. Wastchak, Tempe,