CRA’s B Austin featured in Green Builder Magazine Nov/Dec 2019 Issue & Recognized in the 2019 Hive 50

Two big announcements for our Award Winning B Austin Communities Project.

First, B Austin Communities is being recognized in the 2019 Hive 50.  See more in the article in Builder Magazine here with excerpts below:

Our 2019 Hive 50 list—spanning design, building technology, capital commitment, customer intelligence, and business and consumer strategy—highlights applied brilliance that reflects how the future now defines this community more so than the effect of all the past millennia put together. The honorees will be celebrated at the fourth-annual Hive conference, Dec. 4-5, in Austin, Texas.

Second, excited to see our B Austin Communities project grace the pages of Green Builder Magazine this month.  Link here to the complete issue.


CRA’s B-Austin Project released as an Austin Energy Green Building Case Study!


We are honored that our B-Austin multi-use project has been released as a case study for the Austin Energy Green Building program! The AEGB has been a highly successful sustainable building program for Central Texas since 1990, cultivating innovation in building and transportation for the enrichment of the community’s environmental, economic, and human well-being. B-Austin achieved a 4-Star rating featuring on-site solar, grey water harvesting, urban farming, integrated wellness, and much more. See our website for further information!


CRA Receives (2) 2017 Regional NARI CoTY Awards!


Honored to have two CRA projects receive 2017 Regional NARI Coty Awards for both Residential Additional and Entire House Renovation / Addition last week! The South Central region consists of 8 states including AR, AZ, TX, OK, NM, MS, LA and NV. Thanks also to AR Lucas and Steve Wareing / Phillip Just, GC’s for each project.

See more about these two projects on our website.

Project Portfolio: Peak Lookout Residence



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!

solar panels 1

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.


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.



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.

Custom Home Receives 5-star Rating from Austin Energy Green Building

Clark Richardson Architects Austin Energy 5 Star Rated Residence

We’re proud to announce that our Avenue D Residence has received a 5-star Rating from Austin Energy Green Building, the oldest green rating program in the country!
Only 5% of all AEGB-rated residential projects (and an even smaller percentage of renovation / additions) achieve this honor.  Project features include:

7,000 Gallon Rainwater Collection
Passive Cross Ventilation and Stack Effect
Diverse Outdoor Living Spaces
High Efficiency HVAC Design
High Efficiency Thermal Envelope                                                                                                    Re-purposing of Existing Materials
Construction Waste Management

Hyde Park Residence Photos

Check out these updated photos on our website of our Hyde Park Residence, a green renovation and addition here in Central Austin. We’re currently still wrapping up landscaping but our client was excited to move in last week!

Avenue D Residence Portfolio

We always like to look at where we started when we finish a project here is our post from the beginning of demo about a year ago:

Hyde Park Master Bath

The Natural Vernacular

Thermal Mass
The vernacular architecture of NM takes advantage of the thermal mass of adobe, collecting the heat from the sun in the day to re-radiate it at night.

In an academic sense, the notion of a vernacular architecture has commonly been derived from an idiomatic, regionally specific reading of building practices and habitation.  Broadening this reading of the vernacular, the performative characteristics of local species and ecosystems also provide a compelling indigenous ‘language’, a Natural Vernacular, which can be deployed to challenge the existing, sometimes staid design pedagogies around sustainable design.

Vernacular design seeks to continue a conversation about local building practices in a given site.  Natural Vernacular design takes that notion a step further, the local built environment is studied as well as the survival mechanisms of the local flora and fauna.  Observations of biological evolutions can give a designer more insight into creating a truly sustainable design in situ.

Thermal Mass
Looking to solve the same problem and working with the same available materials, Swallows form their homes using mud and straw

We have looked at this way of designing previously in research studios we have taught centered around biomimicry.    In biomimicry nature is mined for patterns of survival, performative characteristics.  The idea of a Natural Vernacular looks at both the strategies of the local built environment, or built vernacular while cross referencing natural evolutionary performances.

By researching both the biological responses to a problem and indigenous vernacular solutions, inspiration can be found to make a project more sustainable and potentially much more elegant as well.

Reporting Texas Features Green Building

The online magazine “Reporting Texas” interviewed us for an article this month called “Austin Turns to Green Building as Energy Costs Rise”. The article focuses on a shifting paradigm in the public realm.  Just five years ago the general population might have just assumed that “Green Building” meant that you have bamboo floors or Low VOC paints, now the public is coming to design professionals asking for more energy efficient appliances, spray foam insulation, radiant barriers, reflective roof materials, properly oriented windows etc.  This is great – it shows that these “green building practices” are becoming the norm, they are becoming the minimal standards consumers expect when  looking for quality in their home design and construction.  The more educated people become the greater the traction of the sustainable movement.  It is encouraging.

Small is Beautiful (and sustainable)

Eliminating excess can be one of the most sustainable things you can do and maybe a great goal for the new year.  If you think of the elegant designs of old wood sailboats every square inch is used in an interesting and creative way, the bigger a sailboat gets the less efficient it is to operate – a larger crew is required to run the ship. A house can be thought of the same way.

My family and I live in a 900 square foot home.  I feel that this is fairly modest size for a family of 3 with two large dogs, but even with this relatively small scale I am constantly amazed at how much time we spend cleaning, painting and just doing general upkeep around the house.    I could not imagine having a home that is 3000 sqft or more.  We would be slaves to the home or we would be required to hire a bigger crew.  It stops being efficient for the way we want to live our lives.  Not to mention the efficiency of the building, energy and water wise.

Which does make me think back to Sailboat design.  My grandparents lived on a sailboat for over 30 years.  People always thought that it must have been so difficult to live on a 36′ boat for that long, but when you were on that boat you understood the appeal.   We used a lamp to keep us warm at night, the space was so small it didn’t take much energy to warm the whole space.  A small solar panel on the deck of the boat provided all the electricity needed to turn on the lights at night.  We spent no time picking up the place, our time was spent sailing and taking advantage of the outdoor unconditioned spaces where the breezes whipped through and took away the heat of the day.  We bought fresh produce from local markets about every other day – because there was no place to store bulk items, but this also kept us eating fresh produce all the time, not to mention the fresh fish that was consumed.  There was a place for everything on their boat – you never had to look through a junk drawer to find a calculator or deck of cards. The boat was designed to work with the environment, apart from the minimal gas that was used to get in and out of the marinas – we used the sun and the wind to get around. I am not saying we should all live on sailboats, though I was starting to convince myself! A building that is designed with the efficiency of a sailboat would be an elegant building design.

When the design of a building is considered holistically and excess is eliminated, elegant solutions arise.  For more information regarding holistic building design, drop us a note! We would love to hear from you.