Michelle and Gil Lohr of Lohr Homes have been building custom homes in the Austin, Texas, area for more than 10 years, and the firm recently completed a residence in a sought-after neighborhood called Tarrytown. As builders of green homes for discerning clients, they know their customers demand a high level of attention to detail. “We wanted the home to have the feel of the neighborhood both on the outside and the inside,” Michelle says. “We understand what clients want and expect, that helps set the relationship tone once you start custom construction.”
Austin has a reputation for embracing innovation and uniqueness, and because of this spirit, the city came to value green design long before other major metropolitan areas. Boasting a highly educated labor pool, low unemployment, and remarkable growth amid a fragile ecosystem has meant that citizens of the city are ahead of the curve when it comes to knowing about sustainable living and design. “We find clients are very knowledgeable in green building,” Michelle says. “They are willing to spend on the additional costs and features of green building because they understand the benefits.”
As builders who work primarily with infill projects, the Lohrs appreciate the eclectic nature of Austin neighborhoods, where one can find midcentury modern ranch homes adjacent to Mediterranean villas. “Austin is an international melting pot, thus all these styles of homes are relevant, and it’s really about incorporating the green construction into these various styles,” Michelle says.
The Lohrs’ projects are a testament to the level of comfort the husband-and-wife team have with various vernacular styles. “Every home we build is different in style and architecture from its predecessor,” Michelle says. “It gets us interested and involved.” She says building green is great because it doesn’t have one specific look; clients are not limited to one style.
As for what specifically their clients are looking for in new home construction, Michelle’s husband, who is the lead builder on their projects, describes what customers tell him. “They are looking for a floor plan and a house that will fit their needs, and at the same time that the cost of maintaining the house will be low and the overall construction budget is within their budget.” Gil is fast to explain that the cost for building green homes has gone down quite a bit in Austin. He notes that with an additional budget of between five and eight percent, customers can have an efficient Austin Energy three-star-certified green home. “That extra investment will save on utility bills, maintenance, and other expenses, so within a few years, not only do you save that initial extra cost to build a green home, you start to save money,” he adds.
The Lohrs strive to make sure the needs of their clients are met. Michelle, who is also an artist, offers her interior design services to their custom clients for a complete look. She believes this gives their clients a greater sense of comfort. “After they see our products,” she says, “they feel like they have someone who not only leads them the right way in construction, but also holds their hand during the design phase.”
The Tarrytown home has garnered attention for its fresh look and quality green construction. Michelle says that people have called them after looking at the property and are so impressed that they were interested in hiring the Lohrs for upcoming projects, which will most likely be green as well. “We love building green because it makes great sense to do so,” Michelle says. “We love the ideology because it’s building what you believe in.”