Location Austin, TX
Size 10,000 ft²
Program Private residence
Hired to design a new home for a celebrated golf instructor who has coached some of the greatest players the game has ever seen, Barley & Pfeiffer Architects had to know the residence would include at least a putting green. However, it may not have expected an entire backyard golf course—or how resource-efficient such an installation could be. The 24-acre property contains re-creations of some of the most infamous greens in the world, and it’s all lined with proprietary, ultra-green SYNLawn synthetic turf, incorporating myriad green technologies and strategies whose ingenuity mirrors the client’s own precedent-setting golf innovations.
The recreational yard is just the backdrop to the 10,000-square-foot private residence, built by Oliver Custom Homes. The house is located in the sunny hill country outside Austin, Texas, and it earned five stars through the Austin Energy Green Building program, the first green-building program in the country started in 1990. Peter Pfeiffer, president of Barley & Pfeiffer, says, “With his NASA background and his reputation in the golf world, the client wanted a home that was completely unique to [him]. It’s a very contemporary home, and there’s nothing else quite like it.”
Architect Barley & Pfeiffer Architects
General Contractor Oliver Custom Homes
Landscape SYNLawn Golf
An aerial view of the site reveals something more akin to an estate than a home. The training course, designed by the client and intended for the private training of his most accomplished clientele, seems lush and verdant. Juxtaposed against the arid Texas Hill Country landscape, an initial view suggests a major resource drain because of its vibrant greens. But the turf is synthetic, water-free, and designed to perfectly mimic the texture of real golf greens. In other words, though it might appear otherwise, you can’t get greens much greener than these.
According to Pfeiffer, the Austin-based firm he operates with Alan Barley has been practicing the tenets of green building long before it became a trend. As such, the home is green primarily by virtue of its design, which Pfeiffer says, “first regards the position of the sun and the effects of the climate on the home and its systems.” The articulation of this sustainable view manifests primarily through the engineering of the home’s roofing system, which floats above the actual roof of the home and uses a radiant barrier system. Whatever heat is not reflected by the brightness of the roof is absorbed by this floating “umbrella,” with very little heat finding its way down into the attic or living quarters below.
The form of the home itself is inspired by the “swoosh” of a golf ball’s trajectory, with its most dramatic views facing westward over the training course. A westward orientation is not often ideal, so the architects solved the problem by creating a type of screened-in, indoor-and-outdoor space, separated by columns supporting the butterflied roof form. Golfers are thus able to begin their practice days in this space, first working on early-morning swings away from the sun before moving to the rest of the course.
Certification Austin Energy Green Building (5 Stars)
Energy Low permeability SPF open-cell foam and insulated sheathing, geothermal system
Landscape Natural xeriscaping and SYNLawn synthetic golf turf
Roof Floating metal roof reflects solar heat
The floating-roof motif is carried into the other forms of the home. “The home has a very sophisticated and airtight insulation system,” Pfeiffer says. “SPF foam fills the wall cavities while foam board applied over the wall sheathing forms an insulated layer that goes over all the framing members of the home and acts as a thermal break, so minimal heat transfers to the interior.”
Although the home is working to divert heat, the rest of the site is working to store it and regulate it through an innovative heat sink and geothermal system. There are two swimming pools on the grounds as well as a 70,000-gallon underground cistern, and during the summer, the HVAC system transfers excess heat into the swimming pools and cistern (up to a preset point), which are filled with rainwater. The water in the swimming pools and cistern, acting with greater heat-transfer efficiency than the air, makes for an extremely energy-efficient home-heating and -cooling system. In Austin’s cooler months, the cistern never cools to less than 65 degrees and the swimming pools never get any cooler than 55 degrees, so the water is then used to heat the home.
With its highly efficient envelope, maintenance-free turf, and multitude of gizmos, the residence is a paradise for golfers and green enthusiasts.