Best Energy Smart Home of the Year 2015

NATiVE-built home wins Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s 2015 Award Best Energy Smart Homeenergy smart home

Honoring the best in meaningful architecture and leading-edge design, Fine Homebuilding magazine’s annual HOUSES Awards are among the most coveted in the housing industry. For this prestigious awards program, Fine Homebuilding’s editors evaluate literally hundreds of residential architecture project submissions each year from across the country, and ultimately choose to honor only 6 homes in their annual design issue.

Austin-based Danze & Davis Architects and NATiVE are thrilled to announce one of their collaboratively designed and built homes has won the Fine Homebuilding HOUSES 2015 Award as Best Energy Smart Home. Located a short distance from metropolitan Austin in the sleepy Texas Hill Country village of Driftwood, this zero net energy home is a stellar example of state-of-the-art in energy efficiency, healthful practices, smart-home technology, and end-to-end sustainability.

energy smart home

Read the full Fine Homebuilding Magazine cover story

Fresh off the press, you can pick up a copy of Fine Homebuilding’s HOUSES 2015 Awards Issue at the Open House, or visit any newsstand nationwide to purchase your copy. Flip to page 54 to read the in-depth story behind this home, entitled “Stepping off the Grid in Hill Country.” Additionally, you can access the same content digitally plus get exclusive extended slideshow and video coverage:

More about this Best Energy-Smart Home of the Year

This Austin Energy Green Building 5-star rated home in the Texas Hill Country proves that site-specific soft contemporary architecture and sustainability/energy efficiency can be great go-togethers. The energy-smart home was designed from the ground up to embrace the unique requirements of its owners around current and future livability, their passion for open and contemporary design, and to deliver panoramic views of the vineyard in the valley below – while also delivering on their desire to achieve net-zero energy efficiency status and to stay within a reasonable budget.

To reach that lofty green goal, our unique design started with careful siting on the 7.5 acre site, then integrating deep overhangs, copious daylighting, an elevated stair tower with motorized clerestory windows for passive cooling, a ground-source geothermal HVAC system, a hybrid heat-pump hot water heater, banks of solar photovoltaic panels, and state-of-the art energy monitoring systems. The design also incorporates spray foam insulation, a sealed attic, and 100% rainwater harvesting for all water needs.

Literally beginning with a clean sheet of vellum, our architect sketched a beautiful exterior that pays homage to traditional Texas Hill Country design vernacular yet is at peace with its hilltop site, incorporating locally quarried limestone masonry, deep overhangs and porches, Galvalume metal roofing, and varying widths of Earth-toned HardiPlank siding. Inside, we envisioned a straightforward yet open and airy floor plan, bringing to life the desire of the owners for a soft yet strictly contemporary design mantra and carefully segregating the public and private spaces. In keeping with healthful design practices, a detached garage and carport were connected to the house with a covered walkway in a zig-zag configuration – plus a central vacuum system, with the vacuum motor located in the garage, ensures no airborne dust is generated when the natural bamboo floors are cleaned.

The end result is an everyday hillside retreat for its owners, with the added cost benefits of net-zero energy living. In addition to the Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB) 5-star rating – the highest level of award available in the program – the home was also awarded a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Score rating of 7 ( following an audit by an independent energy evaluation service. In actual practice, the all-electric home is performing very close to its near-net zero energy design spec.

“The Kolnowski residence has been a wonderful design experience from the beginning throughout the entire process, and we at Danze & Davis Architects are so excited to receive this Fine Homebuilding Award for 2015 as a team effort, working with the construction team at Native and the Kolnowskis. We are also especially pleased that the Kolnowskis are enjoying their home and the benefits of the net zero energy design solutions, because that is the real measure over time.”
Donovan Davis, AIA – Danze & Davis Architects

“One does not set out on a project like this with an eye on potential national awards, but it became clear early on in our collaborative process with Danze & Davis Architects and Build Native that we had struck on a winning combination of resources – a collective team that could help us realize our goals of embracing great contemporary design, achieving near net-zero energy efficiency, a 360-degree view on sustainability, and keeping within a reasonable budget. We are exceedingly pleased that the editors of Fine Homebuilding magazine have recognized our home with this HOUSES 2015 Award as their Best Energy-Smart Home.”
Tom & Peggy Kolnowski, Homeowners

energy smart home

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