Although Karla Greer’s clients requested high-performance features for their Texas Hill Country home, the couple’s list of priorities also included many low-tech touches. In fact, the LEED Platinum home near San Antonio relies on time-tested, decades-old strategies for keeping the family comfortable and in tune with the site’s gorgeous natural surroundings.
One approach that cost nothing and required no special technology was tapping into the location’s plentiful sunshine and cooling breezes. Greer sited the main living area of the 3,256-square-foot home and guest wing on an east-west axis to avoid thermal gain during the summer and optimize passive solar heating during the winter. In addition, the Lake|Flato architect speced bountiful low-E glazing to facilitate natural daylighting, let in fresh air, and enhance views of the surrounding wildflower field.
When the homeowners want a peaceful place to relax, they step into Greer’s custom-designed sleeping porch off the master bedroom, which provides an airy spot for reading, napping, or even sleeping. Screened on three sides and oriented to facilitate natural breezes, the structure is framed in steel and wood like the rest of the house.
“The room is simply an extension of the master bedroom,” Greer says, adding that the steel framing was designed to be bolted together in a user-friendly “Tinker Toy” assembly that required no welding or ground connections. To minimize vertical lines and make the porch feel lighter, she set the bronze insect screen horizontally in thin steel rectangles.
The porch provides a connection to the outdoors in the quietest part of the house, Greer says. “With bedside lights and a down duvet, this is a perfect outdoor sleeping room for most of the year until the hottest part of summer.”
The project team took water conservation to an extreme level, working with the city to gain approval for a special rainwater harvesting system that collects and triple-filters rainwater to meet 100 percent of the family’s potable water needs—even during recent record-drought conditions. Energy-saving technologies also abound, including a 12-kW solar PV system and a ground-source heat pump that provides efficient heating and cooling as well as the majority of the home’s domestic hot water. Regionally sourced, high-recycled-content materials add beauty and character, from mesquite block flooring and Lueders limestone walls and countertops to gabion basket retaining walls.
Although many of the green building strategies used in this home are not new or cutting edge, they have stood the test of time, Greer says. “This is a LEED Platinum house, but it employs so much of what Lake|Flato has done for the last three decades, which is designing buildings that respond to their place, connect with the landscape, and that are passively and inherently sustainable.”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Antonio, TX.