Charles Davis SmithAIA

Dedicated to modern architecture and low-impact living, the Urban Reserve development in North Dallas is a nature lover’s paradise, with wooded rolling terrain, trails, and ponds. Design guidelines there require that homes are at least 20 percent more energy efficient than mandated by code, and narrow lots facilitate increased density. The LEED Gold home, one of the first to be built in the development, is a striking testament to the community’s mission, with many ultra-sustainable features wrapped in a unique sculptural shell designed to block and control the harsh Texas sun. Architect Vincent Snyder created special slate “flaps” that fold down and hang over the east and west sides of the house to shield the sun. He also vented the walls and roofs to reduce heat gain and moisture within the slate-clad envelope and kept glazing to a minimum on all but the southern side of the house, which is wide open to the side yard with rows of sliding glass doors that provide bright, lofty interior spaces.

“Through proper shaping of the roof and sidewalls we controlled the direct daylight while providing significant indirect daylight that greatly reduces the need for artificial lighting even on cloudy days,” Snyder says. In the winter months when the sun is lower, sunlight warms the concrete slab ground floor, which acts as a thermal mass.

Water conservation also was a big concern for this project, and the judges were impressed with the way Snyder’s design takes that into consideration. “The interesting thing is the roof form, which is really dynamic but designed with the entire purpose of collecting rainwater,” said one. Rainwater runs down the penetration-free sloped roofs into a large copper gutter, which slopes to follow the angle of the interior stairs below. The water ends up in a 10,000-gallon underground cistern where it is used for irrigation. In times of heavy rain, the cistern overflows into an adjacent retention pond.

Other sustainable products include a tankless water heater, closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling, bio-based spray foam insulation, and durable copper flashing. The judges loved everything about the project: “The section and structure are amazing, with beautiful detailing, which adds surprise and delight where the structure comes through to let light in and wash the interior walls in light,” said one.


Architect Vincent Snyder chose to clad the Urban Reserve house in high-quality S-1 Vermont slate because it is beautiful, low-maintenance, and durable, with a lifespan of up to 300 years if installed correctly. To ensure that level of longevity, Snyder and the project’s roofing contractor selected copper flashings and gutters that would stand the test of time and speced a solid wood substrate instead of plywood. They also carefully ventilated behind the shingles to keep moisture from being trapped within the assembly.

By using it on both the roof and walls, the slate provided a seamless, sculptural look. “A perfect combination of durability and beauty,” Snyder says.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Dallas, TX.