Travis Audubon Home Featured in Cool House Tour

By Sheila Julson

Travis Audubon home at Baker Sanctuary.

The new caretaker’s home on the Travis Audubon Baker Sanctuary will be featured in this year’s Cool House Tour. The tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., June 9 throughout the greater Austin area. Austin Energy Green Building and Texas Solar Energy Society have presented the Cool House Tour since 1996.

The home, located on the grounds of the Sanctuary, a protected habitat for the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and other wildlife will be a highlight of the tour. Solluna Builders constructed the home, which serves as the residence for the family of land steward and biologist Christopher Murray, manager and educator for the Travis Audubon Society.

Murray and his wife, Julie, and children Connor and Braeden, moved into the house this past November. Like Travis Audubon stewards before him, Murray had previously lived in a 750 square foot manufactured house on the property. The new eco-friendly home is 1,750 square feet and features a 32,000-gallon rainwater collection tank that provides all of the water for the house. All appliances are energy efficient, and the house itself is highly insulated so it doesn’t require a lot of energy.

Solar panels provide most of the electricity, and a new maintenance barn is oriented on the site in such a way that the roof captures the sun’s energy. Patricia Chawla, Green Building and Sustainability Consultant for Austin Green Energy Building, says that’s just one of the energy efficiency measures Travis Audubon took before implementing a eight-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system. “It’s essentially a net-zero energy home. When the energy efficient items and the PV are combined, there’s not much of an electricity bill after that. And, being a wildlife sanctuary, they were concerned with keeping it as natural as possible.”

Solluna Builders, owned by Wayne Jeansonne and his wife, Mary Simon, is no stranger to the Cool House Tour. Specializing in building green, energy efficient homes since 2002, the Travis Audubon home is their fifth home chosen for the Cool House Tour.
Others featured included a home on the East Side that was eventually featured on The PlanetGreen TV channel, and a net-zero home in Round Rock. “We don’t build spec homes to sell, so the Cool House Tour provides a way to present the Solluna Home brand to an audience,” Jeansonne says. Prior to Solluna, he had supervised the green building program at American Youthworks.

The Travis Audubon home is not the first Solluna has built on conservancy land. Jeansonne led efforts to construct a sustainable, five-star Austin Energy Green Building-rated home on 15 acres near Manchaca that’s overseen by the Hill Country Conservancy. The same type of criteria had to be followed, taking care to protect the trees and natural habitat.

Jeansonne emphasizes that his approach includes a collaborative team effort—and a big part of the team is the customer. “A challenge at Baker Sanctuary was they wanted it situated in such a way that it would be accessible but not intrusive to the environment. We worked with the trees and the environment and made improvements to an existing educational pavilion on the property.”

For more information and to purchase tickets for the Cool House Tour, visit CoolHouseTour.com or visit the community calendar listing. For more information about the Travis Audubon Society, visit TravisAudubon.org.

Local Resource

Solluna Builders, Wayne Jeansonne and Mary Simon, 7303 Southwind Dr., 512-804-2050. SollunaBuilders.com