Orange County's Project Playhouse features green building for kids

Playhouses have apparently come a long ways since I was a kid: the wooden posts and chicken wire structure my uncle built at my grandmother’s house has given way to small cottages featuring “flat screen TVs, entertainment systems and video game players.”

Yep, sounds more like mini-mancaves as opposed to spaces for kids to exercise their imagination, but at least one group of architects and builders sees the luxury playhouse concept as an environmental education tool. The Ocean Adventure Lab, designed, built, and supported by LPA, Inc., Turner Construction, ProRepro, and Tangram Interiors, features “…a working wave tank, microscopes, oceanography books, a working projector featuring underwater sea creatures, and a Playstation 2.” It also features a host of green building elements, including

  • Use of locally manufactured and rescued materials in addition to those made with recycled contents.
  • Use of drought-tolerant, California native vegetation.
  • A truth wall which exposes the contents of the green playhouse –100% natural wool insulation, piping, and a structure made of composite wood.
  • Energy efficient luminaires and LED lighting.
  • Panels and a sliding door comprised of Trex Accents, which gives the appearance of wood without the inconvenience of splinters. Trex is made of 95 percent recycled materials.
  • Source of renewable energy in the form of Suntech Black Label photovoltaic solar modules on the roof. This makes the playhouse a net zero structure, which means it produces as much power as it consumes.

While playhouses aren’t eligible for LEED certification, the Ocean Adventure Lab so impressed the US Green Building Council of Orange County that they’re awarding the design an Honorary Certification for its use of green building techniques.

Want to get a look at the Ocean Adventure Lab, and other high-end playhouses? They’re on display as a part of The Playhouse Project, an annual fundraiser in Orange County for HomeAid, a non-profit organization dedicated to building and maintaining “dignified housing where homeless families and individuals can rebuild their lives.” All of the builders and designers of the playhouses donate their time and talents, and have helped HomeAid raise over $5.5 million since the event’s launch in 1992. The Playhouse Project display runs through September 5th at the Irvine Spectrum Center… and, yes, if you’re in the market for a luxury playhouse, the event ends with an auction of the donated buildings.

Can’t get to the event? Check out the online gallery of the featured playhouses. And let us know what you think: over the top, or high-end design for a good cause?


  • Looking for a real house? Check out our gallery of seven sexy solar homes.
  • Want to raise green kids? Check out our current listings of products for your eco child.

Image source: Project Playhouse press release