As it is for many firms, sustainable design has become an important part of Brookeville, Md.–based Miche Booz Architect’s residential work. Fortunately, the issue now resonates with clients as well. “It seems to be on the minds of the people who are coming to us,” says Miche Booz, AIA, LEED AP. Case in point is the couple who asked the firm to design a vernacular-style weekend cottage on their property in Woodville, Va.

The clients had owned a small cabin on the 17-acre site for a number of years, but they wanted an updated structure that was sustainable, energy efficient, and relatively compact. “The clients were knowledgeable,” says project architect Joe Harris. “They wanted to try a lot of new ideas, but they also had a limited budget.”

Located about 82 miles west of Washington, the sloping site had views to a pond and the Blue Ridge Mountains, so Harris and Booz sited the 2,700-square-foot home to take advantage of both. Adhering to LEED design principles, they repurposed the existing cabin as a studio and added a new high-performance building that consists of 2x6 framing with open-cell foam insulation and a SIPs roof. “The SIPs allowed us to expose the framing members inside,” Booz explains.

The designers chose an equally high-performance 20-SEER geothermal heating and cooling system that was dropped into the pond. “We figured we already had the body of water to use,” Booz says. In addition to the geothermal, the house has in-floor radiant heating (on the basement and first floor), a graywater system for irrigation, a tankless water heater, and dual-flush toilets.

Booz and Harris applied an equal amount of attentiveness to the interior finishes. The home, for example, is devoid of gypsum and features locally sourced poplar ship-lapped walls. The firm also seamlessly integrated pieces of a reclaimed log cabin it salvaged into various areas of the project.

When seen from a distance, the home has the appearance of an agrarian compound with an assemblage of buildings that grew organically. The tableau was deliberate. “The intention was to make it seem like you’ve taken some utilitarian buildings and put them together to make a house,” Booz says. The only difference is that this home is an energy-efficient building that responds to the way people live.