A Stellar Sustainable Home Is Built on a Surprisingly Low Budget
Rated four stars in the Austin Energy Green Building program, there is no doubt this eco-friendly home in rural Texas offers a modern take on the farmhouse vernacular. Yet perhaps the most impressive aspect is the construction budget—it was completed for less than $150 per square foot.
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Austin–based practice Miró Rivera Architects has created the sculptural abode for an active retired couple, both of whom are ordained ministers with a vision to transform a 46-acre hill country plot near Wimberley, Texas, into a community of sustainable homes where people can gather and find "spiritual renewal."
Conceived as the prototype for a future off-grid development, the Hill Country House—nicknamed The Sanctuary—aims for a relatively light footprint on the landscape, despite its 5,100-square-foot size.
Pier-and-beam construction reduces site impact and lifts the home above the floodplain for protection against flooding, while renewable energy systems—including solar and geothermal—sustainably power the abode.
"The clients wanted a home that was connected to nature, practically off the grid, required very low maintenance, and was constructed on a very low budget," explain the architects.
"As ordained ministers, they envisioned a place to hold retreats and other gatherings—a public-private building with a flexible plan and plenty of space to convene both indoors and outdoors."
Drawing inspiration from the landscape, the Hill Country House features a jagged roofline that recalls the topography.
Juxtaposed against the exterior’s white corrugated-aluminum siding—chosen for durability and low-maintenance—is a palette of natural, locally sourced materials, including limestone, cypress, and pecan.
To achieve an indoor-outdoor living experience in every room, the architects have implemented a shotgun-style, linear layout along an east-west axis, with the public and private spaces placed on opposite ends.
"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," continues the firm.
"The owners have taken it upon themselves to promote their residence as a model for future off-the-grid development, building relationships with the community by hosting folk and Americana concerts on their covered outdoor stage."