Energy efficiency and resource conservation are often far from the minds of vacation-home buyers as they plan and prepare for their dream dwelling, but the owners of a rustic home in the picturesque Black Mountains of North Carolina insisted on incorporating sustainability into the design of their new getaway.

Certified Gold to the Green Built North Carolina green building program, the 1,400-square-foot structure packs in high-performance products and technologies, including radiant floor heating, Pella low-E windows, a Noritz tankless water heater, recycled wood floors, and spray foam insulation. A Superior Wall foundation protects the home from cold mountain winters and, combined with fiberglass insulation, offers an R-value of 30.

The home’s owners, Minnesotans who plan to spend winters in the resort town, were already familiar with the benefits of ultra-tight building practices, including high-efficiency windows and careful sealing and insulation. ”They were pleasantly surprised that we were up to date with some of the things they’ve been doing in Minnesota for a long time,” says builder Richard King, owner of Brookstone Builders.

The traditional Arts & Crafts exterior features a big wraparound porch and cedar shake detailing. King and his clients freshened up the cottage style with many contemporary touches, including wall-mounted toilets and hog-wire handrails on the decks.

The layout, modified from a stock plan, incorporates ample storage, built-in shelves, and an efficient design to help maximize the small space, with the master bedroom on the main level and two additional bedrooms upstairs. King tweaked the floor plan to add more windows and doors and swap out board-and-batten siding with more durable and low-maintenance CertainTeed cement board.

“After framing the house, we were worried that the rooms were too small, but the clients loved it,” he says. “It lives a lot bigger than it feels.”

Within walking distance to the quaint shops and restaurants of downtown Black Mountain and just 15 miles from Asheville, N.C., the house offers easy access to all of the area’s recreational activities, including golf, hiking, and biking. The area, which draws thousands of tourists during warmer months, has a robust second-home market, King says; vacation getaways make up two out of every three homes he and partner Matt Smith build.

Even though many of his clients are wealthy enough to be looking for a second home, they also are interested in saving money, and King counsels them to consider energy-efficient, high-performance products.

“We always tell our clients that if you’re going to upgrade and spend a little extra money, do it on the insulation and windows rather than a granite countertop,” King says. “You’ll save money in the long run with the windows and insulation.”

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor of EcoHome.