Hill Country Retreat

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A retired couple planned carefully for their custom home.

What they wanted. It had to be not so big. It had to be energy efficient and easy to maintain. It had to be situated on their property to take advantage of the Hill Country views and breezes. They came to us with well-thought-out goals.

We built the house under the searing August sun, and it was plenty hot. But once we got the walls up -- and even before we had installed the radiant-barrier metal roof -- the interior was cool because we built the house using structural insulated panels (SIPs). Proper site orientation and natural ventilation let the constant southerly breezes blow through the house. The walls and underside of the roof decking are protected with spray-foam insulation -- it covers the roof rafters, wraps around the electrical wires, and creates a thermal envelope in the attic that won't let heat or cold penetrate from the outside.

  • Careful site orientation for sun and breeze.

  • Shade from screened porch and overhanging eaves, and natural ventilation from careful window placement. Clerestory windows in the simple roof line allow extra ventilation on warm days.

  • Structural insulated panel (SIP) construction.

  • Radiant-barrier metal roof.

  • Double-pane, insulated, low-E windows.

  • Right-sized air conditioning and programmable thermostat.

  • Energy Star rated appliances.

  • Ceiling fans in every room.

  • Franklin wood stove.

  • Polished concrete floors.

  • No-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint.

  • Custom cabinets made with no- or low-VOC adhesives.

  • Rainwater collection system with two 10-000-gallon tanks.