The Sustainable Design Center

Bio-regionally Appropriate Architecture Collaboration and Planning for a Cleaner, Healthier Planet

Austin’s First 5 Star Rated Green Builder Project

This SimpleViewer gallery requires Macromedia Flash. Please open this post in your browser or get Macromedia Flash here.
This is a WPSimpleViewerGallery

Firm: Benjamin C. Obregon Architect

Project Status: Completed in December 1997.

This project was only the second building to achieve a 4 star rating on the City of Austin’s original Green Building Rating system (4 star in 1998). When re-evaluated under the new system in 2001, the home became the first 5 star rated green builder project.

Project Description: 2135 S.F., 2-story, straw bale home built with a recycled post and beam structure, finger jointed studs on interior walls, a rainwater collection system as the sole water supply, stained concrete floors, 0 VOC paints, low VOC stains, low flow fixtures, a horizontal axis washer, a 16 SEER HVAC with 4″ pleated filter and sealed metal ducts in an insulated plenum controlled by a programmable thermostat, metal roof with a radiant barrier, continuous ridge and soffit venting, 2 layers of R-19 cotton batt insulation at the vaulted ceilings, 12-14 inches of blown cellulose insulation at the flat ceilings, a whole house fan, double hung, double pane windows with a low-E film through out, and flow through ventilation in each room.

Many of the materials including the cabinets in the second floor bathroom, the downstairs bathtub, some interior doors, the cooktop, and all of the 6 inch finger jointed studs were purchased at the Habitat for Humanity RE-Store.

The lot was chosen for its almost continuous breezes from the southeast as well as it’s relative privacy and views of the hill country. Two 1-1/2 inch oak trees had to be removed from the site for the house, driveway, cistern and drain field. No other oak trees on site were disturbed. Cedar trees that were cleared for the project were either mulched or used for fence posts and future shading devices. The orientation captures the breezes while providing minimal faces on the east and west to limit heat gain. Roof overhangs provide full sun from the end of November through mid February with full shade in the hottest months.

The home design provides for flexibility in use as needs change with interchangeable master suites/family rooms on both floors. Utility costs for the first year were less than ½ that of a comparable sized wood frame home on COA electricity with propane heating.(electric bills were approximately $60.00-80.00 per month in the summer and $30.00 per month in the Fall, Winter and Spring. Total Propane cost for the first year was approximately $300.00). Total materials waste on the project (not including cedar stumps) were 3-16 foot trailers taken to the county dump. Total wood waste was less than 1 trailer. All glass, metal and plastic waste was recycled.