Casa La Entereza, means house of “integrity” or “entirety,” was constructed in 2006 as an example of green construction on the Texas High Plains—an edifice that could “live with” the landscape, rather than stand as a disruption.
After working in other careers, Darryl Birkenfeld and Joann Starr decided to build a house that would serve as a place to work and as a home, while preserving the integrity of the land. They designed the home as a legacy so it could be converted into a learning center and retreat, in the very near future.
Their original design for the home was based upon adobe churches of the Southwest, conceptualized as a tall rectangular space with an office added on one side and a guest room on the other side. However, after teaming up with their friend, Larry Harvey of Chapman Harvey Architects in Lubbock, Texas, they settled on a final design resembling an equidistant cross shape.
This final design decision not only helped guide the final scheme, but it made the home more harmonically balanced. Instead of laying out the house according to the cardinal directions, it is turned 45 degrees, so that from above, it resembles an “X” on the landscape. This design also improves the passive solar heating, giving more sun exposure in the winter with less direct sunlight in the summer.
The House Design
The complex features a 2,800 square foot passive-solar house and garage with an EcoLodge studio, all constructed with 2 x 6 wood frame walls filled with 5½” thick polyurethane insulation, plus an additional Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) stucco exterior veneer, containing 1½” Styrofoam panels covered by a stucco finish, also called synthetic stucco.
For heating, the house features a high-efficiency cast iron wood burning stove that heats 2200 square feet. The bottom level is covered with old-growth bamboo flooring, because it can be grown in only seven years as compared to much longer times for hardwoods like oak and maple, plus cork flooring for the kitchen, a material taken off the exterior of the cork tree that can grow back with time. The buildings also contain double-pane, low-E windows.
Other important features of Casa La Entereza are raised-bed gardens for food production and xeric landscaping, 24 solar panels for electricity generation (a grid-tied system that produces one-third of energy needs), and underground concrete cisterns that can hold up to 10,000 gallons of grey water and/or harvested rainwater this is collected from all roofs for garden and landscaping needs.
Casa La Entereza is also situated on 45 acres of Texas native short grass prairie. It includes a 20-acre playa wetland, plus an 800 square-foot Outdoor Classroom with complete interpretive panels that describe playa lake ecosystems.
Location and Information
1555 FM 168, Nazareth, Texas