From Bungalow to Dream Home

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Central Austin is a desired locale for those living in the Texas city because of its picturesque neighborhoods and proximity to amenities. That was why the owners of this small bungalow in Central Austin didn't want to move even as their family outgrew the home. Enter CG&S Design-Build.

September 15, 2010

One of the clients’ primary goals was to increase their living space both inside and out.

Central Austin is a desired locale for those living in the Texas city because of its picturesque neighborhoods and proximity to amenities. That was why the owners of this small bungalow in Central Austin didn't want to move even as their family outgrew the home. Enter CG&S Design-Build.

"In the Central Austin area, most of the homes are fairly small, but the real estate value is fairly high," says project architect Marsha Topham. "There are a lot of nice things about living in Central Austin and they wanted to still live somewhere where they didn't have to drive long distances to get to places." At the same time, the home had to meet Austin's challenging building codes, stay within historic limitations because of its locations and also accomplish the clients own goals for sustainability and energy efficiency.

Code challenges

From the time the design agreement was signed in October 2007, it took nearly 11 months for construction to start on the project. Topham estimates that at least two months was added to the process to deal with various city and neighborhood groups.

"The whole design process took longer than we anticipated, just having the city regulations that there were really added a significant amount of time to the project," she says. "I don't think anyone anticipated it."

The clients' Bryker Woods neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places, and while the home itself is not a protected building, it is what is considered a "contributing structure." That meant that the CG&S team had to go through a historic review, conferring with the Bryker Woods Neighborhood Association and the Austin Historic Landmark Commission on the design of the house.

At the same time, the recommendations of the historic groups weren't binding - in one case, the clients opted to go against their recommendation and install a metal roof to meet their sustainability goals.

"Also, being in Central Austin, we have what we call the 'McMansion ordinance,'" Topham says. "It limits the massing of the house, so that you can't get these monstrously large houses next to a small bungalow type of house."

While the ordinance has the positive effect of preserving the character of the Central Austin neighborhoods, it did present some challenges in expanding the structure, a long, skinny shotgun home on a narrow lot.

"There are impervious coverage limitations and floor area covering limitations," Topham says. "Because of these limitations, we really had to build over the footprint of the existing house."

The ordinance also requires that for any wall longer than 32 feet there must be a 4-foot offset.

"So you have to start breaking up the roofline to stay within this building envelope that's defined by regulation," Topham says. "It can be really trying to stay within these McMansion requirements and make it attractive."

Staying within the footprint and building up also presented its own set of challenges. The clients had opted to keep many of the fine wood finishes that existed in the first floor.

"We kept the wood floors, so after we peeled off the roof, we had to protect the house for several months while it was under construction," Topham says. For three months, the CG&S team protected the home with large tarps, sheeting and tenting without any damage to the existing structure, despite several storms.

Meeting the clients' goals

The existing design of the home also posed a challenge in achieving the homeowners' goal of adding a pool. The only access to the backyard before the remodel was through the master bedroom at the rear of the home, blocking the rest of the house from any outdoor pool and patio.

"That became a major force in the design that we developed - to take the master bedroom and put it upstairs along with two other bedrooms for their children," Topham says. "That left a space on the first floor to then create a living area where the existing master bedroom had been."

The pool and spa were also designed with the goal of squeezing as much as possible into a small space. The plan initially started out with a carport that the residents intend to build on the site. The plan went so far as having CG&S design the carport. While the homeowners have opted to hold off for now, the carport, along with the storage building now on the site set the area the deck, pool and spa could fill, as well as influencing the design, Topham says.

Despite the challenges, CG&S was able to accomplish the homeowners' goals, increasing the home from 2,000 square feet to nearly 3,300 square feet. The new second floor added a master suite, two additional bedrooms, a second bathroom and the laundry room, all without increasing the home's footprint.

"Ultimately, they would have like to have more space to accommodate out-of-town family that comes to visit, but we were able to accommodate their family and provide a guest bedroom," Topham says. "It gives them a lot of flexibility that meets their other needs."

The finished project met the clients' twin goals of upgrading their home without drastically impacting the neighborhood.

"When you drive down the street, it fits so well," Topham says. "You wouldn't have known there was an addition to it."

Designing with green in mind

The clients not only wanted to expand their living space, but they wanted to do it as efficiently as possible.

The city of Austin has a green building program under which homes can get one to five stars (five being the best) for their sustainability and energy efficiency. This project was an Austin Energy five-star rated project, although achieving the rating was secondary to the clients, who were committed to energy efficiency and sustainable construction.

"The clients were not as interested in getting the rating as doing the work," Topham says. "If they got the rating, great. If not, fine. They didn't want to pay more to go through city red tape, but they still wanted the sustainable design."

That saving was achieved mainly through constructing a very efficient building envelope. The windows were upgraded to new double-paned aluminum windows on both the existing structure and the second-floor addition. Polyurethane spray foam insulation was used on the new walls and cellulose insulation was blown into the existing exterior walls. CG&S replaced the existing HVAC system with a 16 SEER, 95 percent sealed-combustion gas furnace.

Passive energy reduction also played into the design, as CG&S designed the roof with deep overhangs to block sunlight and reduce heat. The rear arbor shades not only the deck, but also protects the large sliding door from the intense southwest sun.

Products List:

Appliances: Bosch, Decor, KitchenAid, Sirius; Decking: Ipe; Lighting: Alico Industries & Elco Lighting; Pool tile: Stone Creek; Siding: James Hardie; Sinks: Blanco; Windows/Sliding door: Marvin

Photos by Andrew Pogue

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