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Green and Affordable: Casas de Don Juan

Both of these three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,384-square-foot homes were built in cooperation with the Santa Fe Community Housing Trust as part of an affordable housing program. The construction cost was low by local standards at $80 per square foot. The relatively small lots are best described as "infill" in an old neighborhood that is currently being revitalized. But low cost doesn't have to mean low quality - these houses were recently awarded the Parade of Homes Judge's Choice Award for Best Home under $250,000.


Mature trees on the small lot were carefully preserved, and rainwater is used to support landscaping and wildlife. Notice the shadow line under the portal, which has been carefully designed to admit daylight without overheating the interior.

Despite the relatively low cost, the houses boast excellent interior and exterior finishes (tile interior throughout, acrylic-fortified stucco exterior). Natural lighting, good ventilation, and a thoughtful floor plan help to make the best use of space. Thermal performance was emphasized throughout design and construction, with a high-efficiency hot water heater and boiler, radiant heat, double-glazed windows, and careful attention to weather sealing. Fly-ash was incorporated into the concrete mix to reduce the Portland cement content in the slab, which also acts as thermal mass to retain and modulate solar gain. The 2x6 walls were insulated with wet-spray cellulose and R-5 foam sheathing. A blower-door test was conducted at the end of the job to evaluate the envelope and to determine ventilation requirements. Careful construction, thoughtful design. Mature trees on site were protected carefully, and stone from a pre-existing rubble foundation was reused for the yard wall and landscaping. Water catchment was integrated into the grading and drainage plan in the form of a pond, which supports regionally appropriate landscaping and gives birds a place to get a drink (a rare treat in the desert). The architect, Greg Walke of WOA, Inc., made sensitive use of locally available materials to retain the regional character of Santa Fe without breaking the budget, and provided for shade, privacy, natural lighting, and optimal placement on the lot (see photo below). He also specified low-VOC finishes and polystyrene products that were manufactured without CFCs or HCFCs. This project worked out well for everyone -- us, the city, the new homeowners, and their neighbors. By using the existing infrastructure, infill housing saves money, conserves resources, and can provide housing for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it. These houses were built within a block of each other in an older, traditional neighborhood. During construction, several of the residents stopped to thank us for helping to improve the neighborhood. It's hard to put a price on that. -- P.H. and S.H