Santa Fe’s annual Haciendas — A Parade of Homes provides an opportunity to brag about our local homebuilders.

While the level of quality and design has evolved over the 27 years to multimillion-dollar showstoppers fit for celebrities and trust fund managers, the most incredible features are ones almost never seen and, these days, only casually appreciated.

There is a class of longtime builders who migrated to Northern New Mexico following the counterculture invasion of the 1960s and ’70s. They were drawn to the notion of building it yourself from the dirt you stood upon, just as indigenous New Mexicans had done for centuries.

For the most part, they made it up as they went along. By the time Eldorado took off in the early ’80s, following a landmark water rights case, many young builders began buying lots to build spec and client-driven passive solar homes of their own designs.

They followed closely the inspired simplicity and technical exactitude of then-local and now-international architect Ed Mazria, who published The Passive Solar Energy Book 40 years ago, euphemistically known as the Passive Solar Bible. It put Santa Fe on the map for idealistic, overeducated young boomer builders. Eldorado remains the largest passive solar residential community in America.

Eldorado also made the reputations of many of those still building in Santa Fe today, although their neighborhoods of choice have certainly moved beyond simple, entry-level sustainable homes. Now they are maestros without equal. If you’ve never done the Parade of Homes, throw down the $15 and see as many of the 20 home as you can.

What you won’t see is how far Santa Fe builders have progressed in building science over the decades. Indeed, they have been at the tip of the spear for the National Association of Home Builders — often the tip working as a sharp prod to the resistant.

Santa Fe builders attended the first assemblage of green-minded builders convened by the association in Denver 20 years ago. There were about 200 builders out of a national membership of over 200,000. Local members remained active and vocal at national meetings and were recognized as the greenest local homebuilding association among 750 chapters. Building super green for both luxury and affordable homes has become our brand. Our mandatory codes are well above national codes and have been for over a decade.

Many old-school sustainability builders weren’t necessarily on board when city officials began clamoring for green building codes 20 years ago. The national association’s party line then was to resist any attempts to pass green codes and let the market respond to demand, if there was any. Santa Fe didn’t buck NAHB at the time, but 10 years later, the clamoring became incessant.

The choice was to engage or get steamrolled. Resistance was futile. The final product was aggressive, doable and third-party verified. It unquestionably lifted all boats and began the race to zero — net-zero energy, that is. Now the race is on to imagine and build net-zero water homes. That’s revolutionary and progressive stuff and largely invisible behind the beautiful surfaces.

The green building movement locally and nationally owes its birth and its momentum to those who made it up as they went along 40 years ago as audacious 20-somethings. See what they have now become. Appreciate what is on the surfaces but remember what’s behind the walls.

Kim Shanahan is a longtime Santa Fe builder and former executive officer of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association.

If you go

What: Haciendas — A Parade of Homes, a self-guided tour of 20 homes

When: From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, and Friday, Aug. 16, through Sunday, Aug. 18.

Cost: $15

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