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Off-Grid Residence Helps Preserve New Mexico Ranch
Pioneering the way for sustainable homes in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Milder residence blends beautiful adobe architecture with elegant touches of modernism. Conceived by Boston-based Signer Harris Architects, the stunning off-grid home is extremely energy and water efficient, and will serve as a model for future developments in the Galiesto Basin Preserve.
New Mexico is a wild and beautiful place, so beautiful you hate to even think of developing it with houses and towns. About 15 miles South of Santa Fe is a 13,000 acre ranch that is now set for development, but not in the traditional sense of filling it with tens of thousands of homes. Over 10,000 acres will be kept as public open space, while the remainder will be homes and a village. The sale of these lots and development of these homes and villages is actually what is paying for the purchase of the Galiesto Basin Preserve with the help of the Commonweal Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation-based community development organization. The Preserve is one of the nation’s first conservation communities and is featured in the National Building Museum’s “Green Community” exhibit.
In order to encourage sustainably designed homes, Commonweal Conservancy offered a $50,000 rebate to the homeowner who would pioneer an integrated design that was off-grid and environmentally responsible. Fred and J.J. Milder took on the challenge along with Signer Harris and completed a spectacular home. The architecture has its roots in Pueblo and Territorial Revival styles, and is composed of three different buildings connected by outdoor covered portals. Each building is of a slightly different style and becomes more progressive in style and details, as though the compound arose over time as funds and the family grew. The compound forms a three sided courtyard, which not only forms a protected open space for the family, but also helps in moderating and controlling temperature for the home.
The home is constructed using traditional rammed earth construction and Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, both of which help the home naturally respond to environmental conditions. A storm and gray water collection system help the family conserve and efficiently use water both inside and outside for native landscaping. The home itself is very energy efficient, and is powered by a pole-mounted 4.5 kW photovoltaic system with battery storage as well as a solar hot water heating system. WoodMetalConcrete Architecture was responsible for overseeing the construction and project details.
The Milder’s home is one of 5 equestrian homesites in the West Basin area of the Preserve. The Preserve will also have a few other neighborhoods with varying levels of density. The most interesting area is the Village, which will consist of 965 homesites, with a variety of housing types, a school, civic buildings, a café, general store, post office, business incubator, outpatient care medical facility, fire station, ATM, non-denominational place of worship, environmental center, and live-work commercial space for local artisans and community-based businesses. There will also be an organic garden and a greenhouse located nearby.
While we definitely prefer infill development as opposed to greenfill development, we have to applaud Commonweal Conservancy and the Preserve for their innovative development method. By buying up the tracts of land from the Thornton Ranch, they are reducing the amount of development that would have occurred had another traditional developer come along. The families and homeowners who buy into the development are paying to preserve over 10,000 acres of land forever.
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