When young Alex Finnell was challenged by his parents to design an “age in place” home for them and his 95-year old grandmother, he set about helping them to achieve their goal of living in their own home late into their retirement years while being as safe, independent, and comfortable as possible.


Finnell saw the design challenge as chance to try out advanced sustainable and green solutions while addressing mobility issues and the need to accommodate for possible wheelchair use in the home with a zero-set threshold. He made an effort to reduce the clinical appearance of accessibility features such as shower handrails and walk-in therapeutic pool. Grandma Carol has her own guest suite that includes a semi-private apartment where a full-time caregiver can reside.

Construction on Bouldin Creek Ranch was completed last September in Austin, Texas. The 3,650 gross square feet of the single-story house includes a 600 square foot semi-detached garage. The site is modestly landscaped to reduce the need for irrigation in the dry Texas climate.

Determined to achieve net-zero energy, Finnell incorporated several sustainability features that include a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic array that uses micro-inverters, abundant use of natural daylighting, glazing on windows, LEDs are used in 90 percent of indoor lighting fixtures, 2,500 gallon above-ground rainwater collection cistern, and five geothermal wells. The wells qualified the Finnells for a tax credit of 30 percent; waste heat is used for the conditioning of domestic hot water.

Real-time data on electricity consumption is provided by an energy monitoring system. The building has already been certified LEED Platinum and received a five star rating from the Austin Energy Green Building program.