These days, many of us are trying to meet two seemingly conflicting goals: We want to build the finest housing possible, but we also want to make that housing available to people other than the wealthy. In 2007, the company I co-founded many years ago - South Mountain Co., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Mass. - was given an opportunity to pursue those goals when we were chosen to design and build a neighborhood of eight two- and three-bedroom Cape Cod–style homes. The property - which was designated affordable housing - was part of a 26-acre purchase by a local conservation organization. The homes would be clustered on four acres, and the rest of the land would be left as protected open space.

A fundamental goal of the project was to make these homes truly affordable, now and in the future; therefore, we would need to design and build them to meet the most stringent requirements for energy efficiency and low maintenance.

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