Designing Taos

Site-specific and environmentally responsive

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Jed Magee  of jedmagee.com, is a Taos designer-builder of residential buildings who enjoys incorporating contemporary design into his approach. Magee is a lifelong Taos resident, and grew up in the building industry alongside his father Vishu and his brother Aaron.

Magee earned his bachelor’s in architecture from the University of New Mexico.   Asked about local design trends, Magee commented, “Locally, what’s happening is people are still intrigued and interested in what we all would consider Taos style, but compared to years past, people are more interested in using steel, concrete, straighter lines, crisper corners, and an open airiness that you don’t find in the old style of Taos.”  

Magee said he always uses the site as a starting point for designing a home. In Taos, this includes topography that can be challenging because it’s rocky, sloped or mountainous. In addition, Taos’ extreme temperature fluctuations and wind need to be considered.  “My designs are site-specific and environmentally responsive,” said Magee.  Another high priority for Magee’s clients is to incorporate Taos’ views into their home design.

Magee said he is careful to provide people with the views they want without overexposing them to light, heat and heat loss.   Aesthetically, Magee works with color and texture to reference natural site conditions. “I try to blend in and not be too obtrusive,” said Magee. 

Recently, Magee has been working with European passive house concepts, using extremely high levels of insulation to achieve a highly energy-efficient home that maintains an even indoor climate through all ranges of temperature swings. He also often incorporates active solar systems. Magee’s homes are following the building trend of moving towards combustion-free buildings, reducing or eliminating the need for fossil-fuel energy.

Doug Patterson is president of Living Designs Group, has developed his architectural firm to be a leader in sustainable design and green building in Northern New Mexico. Living Designs Group, ldgtaos.com, designs and builds municipal, commercial and residential buildings.  Patterson is a member of the American Institute of Architects and a licensed New Mexico architect.

While working as a foreman for Earthship creator Mike Reynolds, Patterson learned sustainability concepts that he now applies to large-scale architectural projects.  Light, water, orientation and energy efficiency were all factors Patterson considered in redesigning a building on Civic Plaza Drive into the modern, efficient, high-tech UNM-Taos Health Sciences building.

“Adaptive reuse of existing buildings is one of the most sustainable sound decisions we can make,” said Patterson. “This was a project where we basically rehabilitated an old structure in the heart of downtown, and gave it a new use and a new life.” 

The renovation included revamping what is called the building envelope, that is, the way the building interacts with the environment around it: how it breathes, insulates and functions. The entire building was reinsulated with new air and vapor barriers, new windows and doors were installed, and lighting throughout the entire facility was changed to low-efficiency LED lighting. In addition, the mechanical units controlling heating and cooling were optimized with direct digital control software.  

As a result, Patterson said the building’s energy efficiency is exponentially greater than it was originally.  At Ranchos Elementary School, sunlight provides lighting for the building’s main corridor. Indirect light from windows and skylights and low-energy LED lights illuminate classrooms. Landscaping is passively irrigated by directing storm water to aspen trees planted to provide shade to the building in the summer.    

Aesthetic appeal is also important. When designing Taos’ new bowling alley, Living Design Group broke up the visual mass of the large steel building by using two different colors for the exterior. Inside, Gutters’ open ceiling creates a spacious feeling. Ben Curry of Living Design Group was the project designer for Gutters. 

Living Design Group also designs residential spaces using sustainability principles. A home in Des Montes includes systems for solar-powered electricity, solar-heated hot water and an open interior design that allows ample growing space for houseplants that naturally clean and humidify the air. Living Design Groups has designed affordable housing projects including the Sueños del Canon condominium complex behind the Youth & Family Center and more recently a project for a private developer behind the Taos High School. Sustainability principles informed both projects.

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