Roof Forms and Landscape Settings
Taking Cues From Our Landscape

Taking Cues From Our Landscape

Montana’s vast and numerable landscapes are a challenge for designers who strive for integrating their built forms into our environment.  It is an important design challenge that should be not just be considered, but practiced carefully, especially in times such as these when rapid housing growth with quick pick stylism is causing a deranged view of housing.

How we improve integration of our built forms into such a complex yet subtle landscape is a matter of understanding each building site and being realistic as to how our design either melds with the local environment or stands apart from it. Most of the time Greenovision designs to meld or integrate into the surrounding landscape.  Although there are acceptable times to contrast and stand apart from our surroundings and our neighbors, in general, we consider this a rather ostentatious design pattern.  As I said, it is ‘our’ environment which we all have to live with either in delight or dyspathy. It seems that most building designs have not even considered our environment at all and it is stylism that predominates in decision making.

So what are the key ingredients to melding our designs into the landscape?

Here are a few to consider:

Understanding the vast and complex scales of Montana’s land and sky.  Although not every site has the “Big Sky” phenomena, many do.  There are, however, narrow canyons, dense urban areas, and tightly wooded areas that require a whole different sets of design parameters to arrive at appropriate massing, building heights, and roof forms. But even in these settings there is always the potential to better ‘fit in’ through attention to local details in scales (heights, widths, lengths, and volumes) of not only buildings, but natural phenomena like trees, topography backdrop, or amount of sky overhead without simply picking a ‘house style’ from a catalog.



Seeing Montana’s color and texture pallet as it is. Montana has arrays of color and texture pallets which can vary from dark wooded areas to brilliant golden fields of wheat. Large swaths of wildflowers or snowfields, areas of river rock, sandstone outcrops, and limestone can all be color pallet cues for us to follow. Nevertheless, it is through examining our design against the real environment that we arrive at appropriate colors and textures.

Studying Montana’s topography. Natural ramps and features like ridges, buttes, aretes, synclines, anticlines, glens, and valleys are all possible informants to adjusting our roof forms and building volume massing.

Through studying and then designing around such natural cues, the home has a connected and grounded aesthetic to its location. This is far different than choosing a style, like bungalow, craftsman, colonial, ranch, contemporary, etc. Not only is it just and fair to each location, it’s by far a more fun and rewarding way to design because it frees up new design possibilities!

What is Environmental Home Design?

What is Environmental Home Design?

We practice environmental design at Greenovision, meaning that the environmental conditions of the site and its surroundings influence our home designs. We believe that homes should compliment and be a sensitive addition to the surrounding landscape, rather than stick out like a sore thumb. Positive conditions such as beautiful vistas, passive solar exposure, cool summer breezes, etc are utilized to benefit the home. Negative conditions such as unsightly views, glaring western sunlight, harsh winter winds, etc are minimized through careful design.


The roof angles of Liberty House and its adjacent Recycled Garage were designed to mimic the slope of nearby Haystack Mountain. The sage green metal roofing and locally grown & milled, natural-colored cedar siding create soft colors that allow the structures to sit in beautifully with the environment.


The surrounding mountain and hillside slopes of the Quinn Creek Home were carefully analyzed and integrated into the design and roof pitches. Even though this photo is in color, winter light conditions often create a black-and-white-like effect. The darker and lighter colored metal siding and roofing colors were purposefully chosen to help the home blend with the environment during the changing seasons.


The low shed roofs at the Crimson Bluffs Home in Townsend, MT were designed to compliment the surrounding mountain ranges. When you follow nature’s existing angles, some amazing things happen both inside and outside of the building. Roof pitches are often “formalities” with no connection to the encompassing landscape. The shed roofs seen in many of our designs are not just a style; they are carefully integrated to have multiple purposes to aid in passive solar heating, passive cooling, water and snow drainage, site specific/environmental design, and other strategies.

Please read Site Specific Design  or Taking Cues from our Landscape to learn more.