Can This Home Be Greened? Keeping the Haven Safe

A Phoenix couple wants to green their desert home with low-cost, high-impact improvements.

| July/August 2009

  • Chrystal Snyder and Richard Otto.
    Photo by Carol Venolia
  • Classic Metal Roofing Systems offers a solution.
    Photo courtesy Classic Metal Roofing System
  • Chrystal can reduce her garden's water use.
    Photo by Carol Venolia
  • The kitchen skylight admits too much heat.
    Photo by Carol Venolia
  • The back porch is ripe for expansion.
    Photo by Carol Venolia
  • Our projection illustrates how Chrystal and Richard could maximize their outdoor space by expanding their covered back porch.
    Photo by Carol Venolia
  • This 1960s tract house needs efficiency upgrades.
    Photo by Carol Venolia
  • The desert sun makes the home too warm.
    Photo by Carol Venolia

When Chrystal Snyder and Richard Otto bought their 1960 concrete-block Phoenix tract house a few years ago, they loved the living room’s cathedral ceilings and wood paneling, the large shade trees, and—thanks to some additions in the 1980s—the “bonus” rooms that accommodate their passions. Chrystal has a ceramics studio off the garage, with north-facing windows looking onto the backyard. At the opposite end of the house, a suite of rooms accommodates Richard’s offices.

After living in the house for a few years, the couple has identified a list of problems they would like to fix: high summer cooling bills; high water bills; dark interiors; little connection with the outdoors; an aging roof; and high levels of indoor dust—especially problematic because of Chrystal’s allergies. With a modest budget, they wanted ideas for “low-cost, high-impact improvements.”

Chrystal and Richard’s project is open-ended, so they can start by addressing the most urgent and least expensive issues, then gradually take on other projects as time and money allow. They can use this master plan to guide their decisions for years to come—preferable to making random changes that may not work well together.

Keep it cool 

1. Reduce water use 

Chrystal and Richard love gardening, and they’ve transformed their once-dreary backyard into an oasis with roses, grapes, vegetables and a little pond and waterfall. But their water bill peaks at $300 in August.

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