2022 Master Design Awards: Historic Renovation — HONORABLE MENTION

by Emily Blackburn

Webber + Studio 

Austin, Texas

Location: Austin, Texas | Project Cost: $900,000
Square Footage before: 1,525 | Square Footage after: 2,100

The design team’s intent was to restore and preserve an historic freedman’s cottage from 1909, increase/double the size of the house to accommodate a growing family, connect to a previously neglected backyard that is one-level below the main house, and renovate an overzealous architectural addition from ten years prior to bring more deference to the existing historic structure while maintaining a contrast between historic and new. 

The making of this project engaged the Historic Landmark Commission very closely to maintain proper historic standards. When complete the presentation of the project to the entire community through the AIA Homes Tour and through national publications, enabled us to bring the story to our local and national communities as they consider similar projects of their own. While not a tiny home, it was designed to accommodate a full-family use as a 3 bedroom and only 2 bathroom house in 2100sf total, which is smaller than many single-family homes in the same and nearby neighborhoods. Part of the intent of a design incorporating a two-room historic cottage was to maintain a scale for the rest of the house that was ample, but not out of scale with the historic. In addition to the design benefit to this approach it kept discipline on the scale and economics of the ultimate build.

By reinforcing the exterior wall system in close coordination with the Historic Landmark Commission, the team was able to integrate longer-lasting materials to preserve the longevity of the structure, while also its historic importance. Because of the natural slope on the site, the design was configured to accommodate a walk-out basement so that part of the house could profit from the more stable temperature of its sub-grade condition. To raise the building’s efficiency otherwise, a new thermal and air barrier along with higher R-value open-cell spray foam stretch the efficiency of the new variable refrigerant flow HVAC system with dedicated dehumidification unit. On demand hot water heating minimizes carbon-based fuel use. Additionally, a high albedo roof and exterior color (white) throws heat off while also maintaining the historicism sought.

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