• The open front porch and its screened second-floor sleeping porch offer outdoor living options.

    Credit: Courtesy HyBrid /ORA

    The open front porch and its screened second-floor sleeping porch offer outdoor living options.

The goal of Rice Design Alliance and AIA Houston's 99K House Competition seems self-evident. But Joel Egan, a member of the winning Seattle-based design team HyBrid/ORA, says the title is a little misleading. “You really only have $75,000 for construction costs,” he explains, “and our entry came in at around $70,000.” That house will be constructed using renewable, recycled, and recyclable materials; it will also incorporate advanced framing techniques, which use 40 percent less lumber than conventional approaches.

Not only is the house more affordable than most, its environmentally friendly design will save homeowners money on monthly bills. A geothermal HVAC system features vertical ducts running through the center of a square footprint. A solar fan at the top, along with dampers on each floor, will permit natural ventilation most of the year. When that's no longer comfortable, window awnings and a two-story porch with slatted screening on the southern façade will help keep costs down.

HyBrid/ORA's design also combats future costs with a flexible floor plan. Thoughtfully located mounted partitions and full-height closet units can be moved in an afternoon.