CRA’s B Austin Community Project receives 2018 Austin Green Award

We’re both humbled and honored that our B Austin Community Project received a 2018 Austin Green Award at last week’s Awards Celebration. Now in its third year, the Austin Green Awards recognizes inspirational green building, landscape, and infrastructure projects in Central Texas. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and we also wanted to thank all our team members for their hard work on this project including:

Arch Consulting (Structural Engineering), DBR (Mechanical Engineering), Water Renu (Graywater Design and Installation), Speir Innovations (Solar), Ben Goins with BPG Construction (Construction Management) and most importantly to our amazing clients, Will, Janice and Gray Godwin of B Austin Communities.

See more about this inspiring sustainable development on our website link below:  B Austin Community Portfolio Link

2018 Austin Green Awardees

 

CRA’s Tarrytown Residence featured in the April / May Issue of Austin Home Design and Decor


Look for our Tarrytown Residence with Hudson Design Development and Rachel Horn Interiors in the April / May Issue of Austin Home Design and Décor Magazine.   Our Tarrytown Residence makes a great #farmhousemodern statement. We expand on the how we interpret the specific style and how it fits with our broader view of modern architectural design in the article. Spreads from the piece can be found on both our Instagram and Facebook accounts as well.

 

Project Portfolio: Peak Lookout Residence

PeakLookout11

 

Check out Paul Finkel’s lovely architectural photos from our Peak Lookout Residence completed with builder, Todd Fletcher of Peak Design Build LLC!

The Peak Lookout Residence is contemporary, luxury home located in Lakeway, TX. The residence is positioned on a gently sloping site and oriented towards distant views. The linear parti frames outdoor spaces both to the north and south of the residence and works with passive solar principles and breezes to allow for an efficient green design. This is a 5 bedroom, 4-1/2 bath residence with a 3 car garage and ample pool deck for entertaining and outdoor living. The material palette is quiet but elegant, consisting primarily of stucco, stained cedar accents and anodized RAM windows through out.

Peak Lookout Residence Portfolio Link

 

 

 

Solar Case Study: Single Family House

In honor of Earth Day today we hope to provide you with an informative post regarding Solar in Residential use.  Happy Earth Day Y’all!

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Solar Case Study: Single Family House

by John Vesel

Austin TX, 6.75kW Photovoltaic Array installed January 2015

Electric Utility: Austin Energy

 In January 2016 we completed our 12th billing cycle as a solar power generating household. The figures are in, but first a rundown of the situation:

1518sf Single Family Home

3 bed / 2 bath; 2 car garage

Constructed 2004

Located in Southeast Austin

Oriented with East-West axis*

Subsidized & Financed

*Crucially, our house is constructed with a long hipped roof with the main ridgeline running almost exactly East-West. This means our largest roof surface is facing South. There are no trees that interfere and the two-story house to our South does not shade any portion of the roof. This existing situation allowed for the easiest possible setup. This was confirmed by the installer when they measured the roof surface and calculated the sun angles. The most helpful terms to know are that kW = Kilowatt which is a measure of energy (1000 watts); kWh = Kilowatt hour which is a measure of power, or, energy over time.

Our solar installer recommended a few different options for solar panel modules. We chose a 270W base panel. During our research, we found that solar panels typically lose about .5% of their production capability a year, but there are still productive panels that were made during the early years of photovoltaic power. We also chose to install a micro-inverter with each module. This is a more expensive option than connecting a single inverter to the entire system, but we felt it was more advantageous. A single inverter system is like an old strand of Christmas lights – if one light goes out, they all go out. With micro-inverters, we could insure that if one panel was shaded or malfunctioning for some reason, then only that panel would be affected instead of the entire system. Inverters are required to convert the DC power generated by the photovoltaic process into the AC power used by the power grid. We had to connect to the grid to receive the Austin Energy solar subsidy.

solar panel 1

 

We chose a 25 panel 6.75kW system capable of producing about 9,000kWh annually. They cover about 443sf of roof area and are built to withstand the elements. Since there are no moving parts, there isn’t a whole lot that can go wrong, outside of a cloudy day, and both the panels and inverters are warrantied for 25 years.

Our system is barely noticeable from the street, only just peaking above the roof. We did inform our HOA, and they were all for our addition. According to our installer, once one house installs, the rest of the neighborhood tends to popcorn as the benefits become known.

The installation process only took a few days. Stanchions were lapped beneath the existing asphalt tile shingles and locked to the existing trusses. These connect to tracks which hold the panels. A single encased electrical line runs down the other side of the roof to the electric meter. We now have two meters from Austin Energy: one tabulates our production; one tabulates consumption. Readings occur as usual with the consumption figure less the production figure.

Enphase-1

The system is linked to an app that I love to check each night. The above graph displays each day’s production for the past year, the brighter the blue, the greater the production. Our highest production value for a single day was 43.7kWh and our worst was under 1kWh. July was a great solar production month this year, hardly any clouds! Below is an 18 day period broken down by hour. Production is updated every 15 minutes. You can definitely see how sun angle increases production at midday before tapering off, or when a bank of clouds moves through.

Enphase-2

 

The app does a variety of things, but my favorite is a comparison of your production to more relatable terms. For instance, on our best day, our system produced enough energy to power and light the Eiffel Tower for 13 minutes. In our first year, we offset the same amount of CO2 as 172 newly planted trees!

We had only been in our house for a couple of months when we began the install process, so the system was sized based on average consumption for similar houses in our neighborhood. Austin Energy deducts our generation from our consumption at each reading with any excess generation becoming a credit. This means that the system can build up a buffer account credit during high-generation summer months which then evens out during less productive winter months. We have yet to pay beyond our account credit.

Our system cost, including installation, was a little over $1,000 per panel. Both the City of Austin and the Federal Government currently provide subsidies to help private owners become solar generators. Both subsidies were for 30% of our retail cost and then the remainder was financed. It is important to note that the Federal subsidy takes into account local aid before calculating the rebate. Our installer coordinated everything although our actual loan is via third party that specializes in such financing with typical rates at about 3% for solar loans. The Austin Energy subsidy was paid directly to the installer and the Federal subsidy was included in our tax return as a Renewable Energy credit. There is a per-year cap to that amount so we will have some carryover to this year’s return.

Since the Federal subsidy came well after our system became operation, we ended up with two parallel loans. One loan was more of an IOU intended to be paid by the Federal return amount. We had 1 year, interest free, to pay that loan in full which we did. The second loan was for the remainder of the system retail price. Typical solar loans are for 12 years, but 7 year and 30 year options were also available. We chose the 7 year loan option at just under 3% interest. Our house does not have gas, and the impact of this payment is like having a large electric bill every month. Aside from being able to look forward to the end date, now only 6 years out, we also have a set payment that we can always plan on rather than a variable use-based payment.

7 Year Financing Cash Flow-1

As you can see, we project to break even on the system at about 10 years. Going solar also fixes the rate at which Austin Energy compares our production to our use, so if rates go up, so does our rate of savings. Lastly, while the hard value added to the home has already boosted our investment value, the solar addition is exempt from property tax calculations.

Project Portfolio: Zilker Residences

Zilker Residences Project PortfolioMG9C0381

We’re excited to share these beautiful photos and video from our Zilker Residences.  This contemporary architectural design, located just blocks from the Barton Springs Pool and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, features two residences in the heart of Austin’s Zilker Neighborhood. Both units open out to private landscaped interior courtyards as well as second floor balconies with views to downtown. The exterior material palette consists of a vertical standing seam siding contrasted against a white washed, vertical cypress tongue and groove siding.

Thanks to Paul Bardagjy for the lovely photos, Susannah Blanton for the great staging work at Unit A.

Zilker Residences Project Portfolio

 

“No that tree is my sister!” – The Life of a House

The story goes something like this:  At one of our construction sites for a historic renovation and addition two siblings came to the site.  They told one of the construction workers on the site that they came to see their trees that were themselves.  “So this tree is you?” asked the construction worker. “No that tree is my sister. I’m that tree.”  The woman pointed to another 28″ herritage pecan tree on the site. Their parents had planted a tree for each of them at the time of their births some sixty plus years earlier. Their house was still there though years of rental tenants had left the cottage in ill repair, so much so that our historic renovation became close to new construction.  Their trees remained towering over the home, bringing back memories of childhood and love.

Heritage Trees on Site of a Historic Renovation and Addition in the Austin Hyde Park Neighborhood.

Our renovation adds another chapter to the story of the trees.  Our client, a photographer and avid bird watcher wanted to inhabit the trees.  We designed a roof top balcony for her tucked away from the street view, nestled up in the trees of the previous owners childhood.  Homes have many lives. Lives that evolve through time, memories become imbedded in the walls and the spaces the walls frame.

“Oh, there were empty houses and houses half-constructed where, as children, we stamped about on the bare winter-pale wood sending up clouds of sawdust into the half-formed rooms, where the wall-frames rose up like thin unfleshed arms and the roof was partly sky, summer-blue, endless as our visions of childhood and life without death. ”  

This quote by Jane Frame, Living in the Manioto was taken from the book House as a Mirror of Self by Clare Cooper Marcus.   This is one of those few books I read in college almost 20 years ago that has stayed in my thoughts.  It describes how the spaces we are raised in affect our perception of the world for the rest of our lives.  Our homes are where we feel the safest and the most love. These spaces imprint on our psyche, and inform our kinesthetic sense guiding the types of spaces we seek out for the rest of our lives.  This makes our job as architects so important, it is a privelage to work with people to imagine the spaces of their future memories.