Green Home

taking the long view

Green-building goals shape a hacienda designed for maximum outdoor enjoyment amid the wide-open spaces of Diamond Tail Ranch near Placitas, New Mexico.

This article first appeared in Spring 2010 Su Casa

Near the northern end of the Sandia Mountains, back through the canyons where the number of houses starts to thin, wide-open spaces take over the view. Wild horses roam freely, meadowlarks flit among the sage and juniper, and fiery sunsets often punctuate the end of the day. It’s an appropriate setting for a home that respects the pristine natural environment through the latest green-building techniques and capitalizes on that stunning scenery with generous outdoor living spaces.

Location counts. “It was like buying two and a half acres and getting 10,000,” says homeowner Bill Goodwin, surveying the landscape of mountain vistas and canyons around the new house he shares with his wife, Connie, in Diamond Tail Ranch near Placitas, New Mexico. Built by Bill Reynolds of New Haven Homes, the hacienda-style house effectively blends luxury, technology, and beauty.

hidden talent
The home’s extensive green features, including a 5-kilowatt photovoltaic and thermal water heating system, enable this highly energy-efficient home to meet Build Green New Mexico’s Gold certification standards. Collaboration among the owners, New Haven Homes, and Environmental Dynamics architect Kent Beierle ensure the residence will be comfortable and viable into the future.

“We wanted a home of a certain size, so we had to be careful about the design—passive and active systems—to get the proper balance between physical space and energy efficiency,” says Goodwin, a retired executive of the electrical wholesale industry with hands-on experience and access to some of the newest products available. “Building any home from the design stage to completion is a lot of work. Adding high-efficiency ideas just adds to the planning and details and initial cost. Green was key because we were building only one home and planning to stay in it for a number of years. The cost of energy continues to rise. There are many new (and some older) products that, when properly utilized, can really reduce energy consumption while making the home more enjoyable. Frankly, I wanted to reduce our going-forward energy costs and save operational costs. There is also a certain amount of ‘feel good’ building a larger, high-quality home that is not an energy burden.”

And though the house is generously sized at approximately 5,000 square feet, more than half the space comprises a three-bedroom, two-bath guest wing heated and cooled separately from the rest of the house. So far they’ve put this space to work. After only five months of residency, the Goodwins had already hosted eight sets of houseguests.

packed with goodies
The home projects a comfortable, well-worn ambience through its traditional design elements while also incorporating state-of-the-art green-building systems. Look no further than the home’s HERS rating of 38, which means it uses 38 percent of the energy that would be consumed in a comparably sized conventionally constructed home built to code. In fact, builder Bill Reynolds sees many consistencies between today’s green-building practices and the energy-efficient, durable, and healthy building techniques he’s always offered clients.

The Goodwin home is packed with goodies, starting with that rooftop-mounted 5-kilowatt photovoltaic system (from Cleanswitch) tied to the utility grid. The system generates about 50 percent of the home’s electrical load. The Lutron integrated lighting system controls 90 percent compact fluorescent fixtures and lets the Goodwins set scenarios ranging from entertainment lighting to nighttime pathway illumination, all programmed into the home computer.

Several systems heat and cool the house. Solar thermal panels heat the domestic hot water, backed by a high-efficiency boiler that runs the in-floor radiant heating system. A zoned combo forced-air system provides refrigerated air conditioning and heating, and a whole-house fan mounted in the attic brings in fresh air. A dedicated solar thermal system heats the swimming pool. Passive heating and cooling features include thermal mass in the walls and floors, which collects the sun’s heat during the day and slowly releases it to warm the home at night. Overhangs provide cooling shade during the summer months.

Construction techniques and materials include three different types of insulation, including expanding open-cell foam and fiberglass. An inch of rigid foam insulation board wraps the exterior walls, and two inches of foam insulation lies beneath the radiant floor. Advanced framing techniques during the early construction phase reduce the amount of lumber used and provide additional space for wall insulation. Clay plaster enhances indoor air quality and emits no VOCs.

Two water heaters operate on different zones to minimize the home’s energy costs. Outside, a weather station–controlled irrigation system provides drip irrigation to plantings when needed. Landscape Solutions installed the largely invisible drain system that protects the courtyards.

big sky country
Inviting outdoor spaces nearly surround the home. In this big sky country, the dramatic views and amiable climate mean the outdoors can and should be enjoyed at least three seasons out of four—and sometimes in winter, too. So it’s only logical, perhaps, that a series of weather-protected portales, courtyards, decks, and a swimming pool play a major role at the Goodwin home, with more than 3,000 square feet devoted to outdoor living spaces.

In front, a Mexican style courtyard is surrounded on three sides by the home and a wood shop and on the fourth side by a thick stucco wall and double-gated arched entryway. You enter the compound here, greeted by a traditional tiered Spanish fountain. Brick-paved walkways lead to the front door amid hand-carved vigas and copper-lined canales. Once inside the home, you’ll find multiple doorways and window sight lines to this private sheltered area.

“This whole house design started around a courtyard,” says Connie Goodwin. “This is the 14th house we’ve lived in, but we had never built before. We wanted a hacienda-style home around a courtyard, and everything grew from there.”

The patios and portales at the back of the home create an observation post for viewing nature. The Goodwins frequently see a small herd of wild horses on the land around them, and they’ve heard the coyotes yipping at night. The couple has pulled out the bird identification books and installed feeders. They’ve also developed an expertise making pizzas in the wood-fired pizza oven in their fully equipped outdoor kitchen. “I can cook a pizza in three minutes,” boasts Bill, who seems to have discovered his new signature dish for casual poolside entertaining.

To make this outdoor space work, multipositioned roller blinds on the patios block the wind and sun, or occupants can escape the elements by going around the edge of the house to another in the series of portales. An alfresco stone fireplace extends the outdoor season, and the woven wire fence (a requirement for the pool) doesn’t obscure the distant vistas. The sun’s transition from dawn to dusk creates a kaleidoscope of shadows and colors, all visible from the home’s indoor gourmet kitchen just steps away, ringed with windows.

eclectic influence
Well traveled, the Goodwins have drawn on architectural styling and collected art from around the world. If the courtyard pays tribute to Mexico and the sun-soaked wineries of Italy, Connie’s front entryway under a groin vaulted ceiling was inspired by a hotel admired in Botswana, Africa. A spectacular nicho wall displays a collection of baskets made by Native American and Filipino artists.

One of Bill’s favorite spots is the temperature-controlled wine cellar with capacity for 1,200 bottles. Situated down a few steps, the cool, cavelike space lined in stone is an Old World retreat.

Behind a knotty alder door, the home’s library/office shows off Bill’s collection of elephant figurines from around the globe.

For all the home’s newness, it manages a relaxed atmosphere thanks, in part, to warm traditional finishes. Saltillo clay tile, with all its imperfections, from thin cracks to tiny lime deposits (but no dog paw prints), lines the kitchen floor and other wet spaces and does double duty as an unusual baseboard molding. Velvety American Clay plaster covers walls throughout the home, and scraped oak floors produce an aged effect. Classic quarter-sawn oak cabinetry enhances the kitchen. Square dark beams accent the great room, and built-in bancos line the hallway that overlooks the interior courtyard.

Inside and out, on the surface and under its skin, the Goodwin residence makes a strong case for green building in a high-end custom home, while its setting in Diamond Tail Ranch exerts its own magnetic pull.

“Why wouldn’t you stay here?” asks Bill Goodwin, who could have his choice of living most anywhere. “We like the culture, the diversity of people and the different things they do, the artists, the scenery, and the weather. A better question might be, ‘Why would we want to leave?’”

resources for this home

Freelance writer Jane Mahoney resides in a fixer-upper in Albuquerque’s South Valley and frequently writes about home builders and real estate issues for the Albuquerque Journal.