Building Green on a Budget

article image

When Doug Nissen set out to design a home for himself, his wife, and their three-year-old daughter in French Place, on east-side neighborhood in Austin, Texas, he faced no small set of obstacles. His lot was long and narrow, with seven mature oak trees and a pecan tree that he wanted to spare. It included a driveway and a curb, problematic features in a city that allows only 45 percent of any property to be under impervious cover. He was working under a stringent budget.

And he wanted to build green.

“To me, it wasn’t really a question of whether I wanted to do a building as green as I could, but how much we could afford to do,” explains Doug, an architectural intern at Austin’s Venture 4 Architects. “A lot of green features don’t necessarily cost more if you know how to specify them.”

Doug was able to build a 1,962-square-foot house that garnered a four star rating from the city’s Green Building Program for about $75 per square foot well below national and local averages. “We didn’t get to do everything we wanted,” he admits. “But all things considered, we got a lot of house for only $75 a square foot.”

Check out the May/June 2000 issue of Natural Home for more about Austin, including:

• Smart growth

• Examples of downtown revival

• Sobering facts