Sustainability Isn’t Just a Buzzword in This Part of Texas

It’s a Lifestyle!

Article by Crystal Henry/Basic Pitch

Photography by Andy Mattern

Originally published in Boerne Lifestyle

No one ended up in the Hill Country by accident. Instead, people move here for the unique beauty this part of the State has to offer. And they’re also fiercely dedicated to protecting it. But as more people move in, the more sustainability becomes important in the home design and building process.

Dianne Kett and Amity Worrel are a professional design team based in San Antonio with a portfolio of projects that span the State. The Amity + Kett architecture and interior design firm is well-known in Olmos Park as well as the Austin area, but their reputation for sustainable design has led them to more client interest in the Hill Country as city ordinances around things like tree protection and water quality have started to tighten.

As an architect, Kett had to become familiar with things like tree root structures and solar panels. She knows that a post oak is going to have an intricate system of roots that requires more distance from structures, while a pecan tree allows for a closer build.

There’s also been a push for more solar ready houses, and Kett said even if the homeowner doesn’t immediately spring for the solar panels, she’s been asked more often to design the house to be “solar ready.” There are even roof shingles that provide solar power, and Kett has familiarized herself with it all.

A project in a rural part of Palo Pinto County led her to design a home that runs entirely off rainwater. The home used trees from the build site as columns, and the masonry is stone found on the site as well. Water wasn’t easily accessible. A well would have been more effort and a higher cost than the rainwater collection system she designed.

“It’s really important to work with a team that understands how to incorporate sustainable features into structural and interior designs,” Worrel said. Worrel works on the interior design, incorporating energy efficient appliances and window treatments that help insulation. Worrel works with window treatment brands that have a high energy rating.

She specializes in using vintage furniture in her designs, reusing and refurbishing clients’ existing furniture. This allows a better use of resources and a better design that adds personality to the project. “Who wants what everyone else has?” Worrel asked.

She focuses on creating quiet, comfortable and easily accessible interiors so that people stay in their homes longer, age in place and reduce the need to build new structures.

Both Worrel and Kett believe in the emotional and social impact of responsible design. “People love the Hill Country for its natural beauty,” Kett said. “It’s important to us that we help preserve that beauty for years to come.”

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