"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.