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Take Note - Affordable Green Home Building Is Possible

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Many people will tell you that building a green, energy efficient home is much more costly than a traditionally constructed home. In the past, this would likely have been a true statement, however, some builders are now able to construct green homes that are comparable to or even less expensive than traditional construction.

Built by Ferrier Custom Homes, Heather's Home is an affordable, three bedroom, 2,000+ square foot home located near Ft. Worth, Texas. The home is incredibly energy efficient - Heather's Home rates in the top one percent of high end Energy Star homes built today. For Heather, that will mean an average monthly heating and cooling bill in the $15 range. And when it comes to summers in Texas, that's saying a lot.

The home was built under NAHB Green Home Building Guidelines and is the first home in the nation to be certified under the new, more stringent, American Lung Association's Healthy Home guidelines. Heather's home has been accepted into the Department of Energy's Building America Program. It is the third home in the nation to receive LEED's (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification and the first home in Texas to receive LEED certification. Heather's Home was also awarded gold, the highest honor in the Energy Value Housing Awards, by the National Association of Home Builders, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Some of the green and high performance components and features of the house that really standout are...

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)

High Efficiency Heating and Cooling System

Solar Hot Water System

Energy Star Doors, Windows, Appliances, Lighting

Green Sustainable Products - Counter tops, Trim, Floor Coverings, Finishes, etc.

Non VOC Interior Finishes

Fiber Cement Siding

Organic Landscaping

Green Sustainable Products - Counter tops, Trim, Floor Coverings, Finishes, etc.

Rainwater Harvesting

Fiber Cement Siding

Passive Solar Design

Proper Shading of Doors and Windows

"Thermo-Siphoning" Attic Fan

Passive solar design principles are an integral piece of the overall efficiency of Heather's Home. For Texas, this means minimizing sunlight exposure in the summer months and maximizing it in winter months. A reversed scenario would be typical of a high performance design for homes built in more northern climates.

Studies have concluded that heating a home's hot water for an average family equates to roughly thirty percent of the utility bill. In Heather's Home, water is heated by a solar hot water system which utilizes relatively small solar roof panels. Today, these systems can be installed for as little as $3000.

Ferrier Custom Homes uses a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) test to ensure quality control. Raters inspect and test the home during and after construction to verify that the home meets EPA's strict guidelines for energy efficiency. The process includes a blower door test (to test the leakiness of the house), a duct blaster test (to test the leakiness of the duct system), and review of a thermal bypass checklist (inspection of common construction areas where air can flow through or around joints and insulation).

What's interesting about Heather's Home is that it's economically pragmatic, but it looks good - it's proof that a modern, green, high performance home can be affordable. It now seems clear that going forward, homes can be built green with little or no added cost. There is really no reason that more developers and builders aren't building green - at least no good reason. So start spreading the word building green doesn't have to cost more.
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