Beating the Cost of LEED: Santa Fe

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Stairway treads are made of reused diamond-plate steel.

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

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.

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

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