Award | Austin Green Awards
The Hill Country House was one of four winners at the second annual Austin Green Awards. The Austin Energy Green Building 4-star residence is a model for living off-the-grid, powered by solar panels, geothermal heating/cooling, and on-site rainwater collection. The Austin Green Awards is Austin’s first recognition program to specifically highlight outstanding accomplishments in the broad arena of sustainable design and innovation, recognizing forward facing design strategies that respond to rapidly evolving environmental, social, and health imperatives.
The design of the Hill Country House earned a 4-star rating from Austin Energy Green Building, the nation’s first green building program and the model for the LEED certification system. An 8-kiloWatt solar array supplies 61% of annual energy usage, generating approximately 40kW hours of electricity per day. Mechanical heating and cooling is made possible by a 5-ton geothermal system consisting of a loop field of six wells drilled 250 feet into the ground. A 30,000-gallon rainwater collection system, designed to provide 200 gallons per day (enough for four full-time residents), meets all of the owner’s annual water needs, utilizing both charcoal and UV filters to purify rainwater collected from 5,300 square feet of roof area.
The design utilizes durable and long-lasting materials not only to extend the life of the structure, but also to minimize maintenance. Corrugated metal siding and a standing-seam metal roof provide easily-cleaned, weather-resistant surfaces that should not require any sort of re-finishing, replacement, or treatment. Locally-sourced materials such as limestone, cypress, and pecan relate to the immediate context and natural landscape, and minimize the consumed embodied energy.
During construction, the architects and contractor developed a waste-management plan to address the disposal of unused materials as well as any waste produced on site. Measures were taken to ensure that no hazardous materials were used in constructing the residence: all paint and exterior coatings area water-based and contains zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs); none of the materials contain formaldehyde or PCBs; and all plasters and mortars are cement-based, ensuring that no EIFS or polymers were used.
The property is a designated Wildlife Management area; the land provides the environment necessary for migrating song birds, and the owners maintain a census of the birds migrating through. In addition, the owners have worked closely with community officials to garner support for creating a series of developments—with this home as the prototype—in which residents would share public spaces, site paths, and other resources.