For less than $200 a square foot, a Santa Fe architect/builder achieves LEED Platinum.

Beating the Cost of LEED: Santa Fe

For less than $200 a square foot, a Santa Fe architect/builder achieves LEED Platinum.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    The clients were moving back to the States to retire, after years of living and working in Asia, and they’d amassed a large collection of folk art that had to be shipped back home. Shipping containers and houses made from them helped inspire the exterior design.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    The house is on a very tight site, so rocks are used to define boundaries with the neighbors.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    The water catchment system consists of two vertical culvert cisterns that hold 300 gallons of water each from the winter rains. A courtyard separates the detached studio from the rest of the house.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    A floating wall separates the living room from the kitchen. Living room floors are made from low-VOC particular board with a low-VOC sealer laid over radiant-heat substrait. Finding ways to make industrial products into beautiful assemblages is part of the fun, says Browne. “We’re proud of this house because it does that in an interesting way,” he says.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    The living room, which also serves as a gallery for the couple’s folk art collection, faces south for passive solar gain. It includes a view of the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos Mountains.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    In this modest kitchen, the concrete countertops were cast on-site. The steel edge served as a form for pouring the concrete and remains as a visual accent.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    The corrugated steel used for the shower was a green choice, but it also turned out to resemble the punched-tin work that’s typical of southwestern folk art. The project superintendent crafted the shower, and the owners had him sign it upon completion.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    The guest bedroom is called The Treehouse for its leafy views.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    Stairway treads are made of reused diamond-plate steel.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    Built-in bookcases of microlam turn the hallway into a library.

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    Laurie Allegretti

    One of Browne’s budget-cutting strategies is to build the house framing to accommodate standard-sized materials such as the factory-made cabinets to the left of the door soffit, which create simple but elegant storage for the home’s wireless network setups.

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    Praxis Design/Build

    LEED points were earned for in-town infill and proximity to public transportation.

"When the clients explained what they wanted, I thought they were joking,” recalls architect Gabriel Browne. “A 1700-square-foot house with a detached studio and two parking spaces? “No way—the whole parcel was 50 feet square,” he adds. “But we did it.”

In addition to a tight lot, Browne was given a tight budget. He and his team, Praxis Design/Build, took on the challenge, setting out to prove that a stylish, earth-friendly custom home needn’t break the bank. One of his strategies for this custom house was to think like a production builder and frame the house to accommodate standard-sized materials. “It takes a whole other level of planning,” acknowledges Browne, “and you have to hire people who care.”

Thanks in part to the City of Santa Fe’s strict building codes, the house nabbed LEED Platinum status—at a cost of $188 per square foot. (It also boasts an impressive 58 on the HERS scale, an Energy Star rating, and an Indoor airPlus certification.) In the second in an occasional series about affordable green building, here’s how one architect/builder beat the cost of LEED.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Santa Fe, NM.