This metal-skinned home measures only 850 square feet, yet lives large for the Austin, Texas, family it was designed for. A joint project by the Austin Community Design and Development Center (ACDDC) and Z Works Design Build, the home is architected and constructed with a high regard for green building science and sustainability practices to minimize the ongoing utility and maintenance costs.
The compact, two-story home has an unusual trapezoidal footprint that hugs the adjacent property line and alley lane, and takes maximum advantage of the limited area of the sloping infill site. The project is located on a property with an existing home, and is part of the The Alley Flat Initiative—a program that is designed to promote the construction of small, sustainable, and affordable secondary homes on parcels where less than 25-30% of the property is utilized. The program was born at the University of Texas School of Architecture in 2005, and has evolved into a collaboration between the University of Texas Center for Sustainable Development (UTCSD), ACDDC, and the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation (GNDC).
The home has its kitchen, dining, and living areas on the first floor, and is finished with a low-maintenance stained concrete floor surface. A light-filled open stairway—constructed from naturally-finished douglas fir wooden treads and plywood trim-out—leads to two bedrooms upstairs.
In keeping with the sustainability posture, the home has a high-efficiency HVAC system for efficient cooling during the hot Austin summers, and benefits from a large heritage oak tree that partially shades the home from direct afternoon sunlight. Large, operable windows on the first floor enable filtered daylighting and are positioned to promote passive cooling on days when temperatures are moderate.
An efficient hybrid heat-pump hot water system is centrally located to minimize the length of water line plumbing, a design decision enabled by the location of the home’s 2 1/2 baths: The first-floor bath is located directly beneath the second-floor baths.
The home is not currently fitted with solar panels, but is solar-ready with a standing-seam Galvalume metal roof, its reflective surfaces optimally oriented to facilitate high energy production on sunny days.
Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.