Green at Heart: A Traditional-Looking Green Bungalow

In this traditional-looking Austin home, green is more than skin deep.

| November/December 2005

In the caliche and limestone hills of west Austin, where live oak and mountain cedar perch on the shores of Lake Austin like cattle drawn to water, Emily and Greg McKaskle and their baby daughter, Adeline, live in one of the greenest homes in town. You’d never know it by looking.

The McKaskles’ simple, compact, bungalow-style home was built in 2002 on a slight slope in a thick grove of trees just off a dirt road. Should you pass by the front drive (which is unlikely given that there are few other houses nearby), there isn’t much that would catch your eye. Oh, there’s a three-foot band of “D”- panel Galvalume metal under the roof eaves and an odd concrete column holding up a larger-thannormal overhang. But besides a few interesting Craftsman design details, nothing.

The McKaskle place begs an obvious question: What does a green house look like? Not so long ago, “green” meant rammed earth or straw bale walls covered in stucco. The rounded corners and earthy hideaways gave the impression that hobbits, rather than humans, lived behind the rustic wooden doors. A look at the McKaskle residence, on the other hand, suggests that a home with sustainable features can look pretty darn mainstream.

“A house doesn’t have to have a green aesthetic in order to be green,” says Peter Pfeiffer, FAIA, of Barley and Pfeiffer Architects, the Austin-based firm that designed the home. Pfeiffer and his partner, Alan Barley, AIA, incorporate environmental elements into their overall designs in a much more subtle way. Only when you take a close look do you realize how green their buildings are.

Cozy and comfortable 

In 1997 Emily and Greg knocked on the door of Barley and Pfeiffer Architects after reading about them in a local magazine. “We didn’t even know green building existed, but the article convinced Greg and me that was the way we wanted to go,” says Emily, a romance novel writer. The couple liked the firm’s philosophy of mixing sustainability with traditional design. “We didn’t even interview anyone else,” she adds.

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