The Zero Energy Casita: A Green Abode Unveiled

We’ve covered a lot of green home new builds, conversions and rebuilds since launching EarthTechling, finding that most of these properties, with certain exceptions, hold true to such lofty goals as being energy efficient and sustainable. One such project getting set to open on June 5th Fort Worth, Texas, is a net zero design home called the Zero Energy Casita.

The Zero Energy Casita, designed by renowned Texas custom green homes builder Don Ferrier, is so called this because it combines a variety of energy efficiency techniques with on-site energy generation from a wind turbine. It was built on an infill lot, which had been previously developed, using a variety of non-toxic building materials (many of which were reclaimed). LEED certification will be likely, with the home already sporting a bunch of other green-based labels such as Energy Star. We recently interviewed over email Ferrier to find out about this unique home as well as what net zero homes are all about. His answers have been slightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Zero Energy Casita

image via Don Ferrier

EarthTechling: What exactly is a net zero energy home?

Don Ferrier: Simply put, it is a home that produces as much energy as it consumes.

ET: What goes into building a home such as this? What factors have to be taken into consideration?
Ferrier: It is a “Whole House” approach that looks much like the well know food pyramid:

  • The foundation base level consists of passive solar orientation, a “Building Envelope” with great air tightness & insulation, preferably a light colored metal roof that reflects most of the suns hot summer heat back, proper shading of all glass/glazing areas (windows and doors with glass) to prevent the hot summer sun from coming into the Building Envelope, high efficient Energy Star windows and doors, etc.
  • The middle level consists of somewhat more costly elements such as a high efficiency air conditioner, more effective means to heat hot water (solar heater or tankless heater), high efficient Energy Star appliances & lighting, ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) for a moderate climate or an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) for a cold climate, etc.
  • The top level consists of more expensive items such as PV (Photovoltaic) solar arrays, wind turbines, etc. to generate electricity..

The key to make this as affordable as possible is to capitalize on the elements on the foundational level that increase cost as little as possible but increase the efficiency of the house and minimize the costly elements as much as possible, i.e. – make a home as tight and energy efficient as possible then add additional items that increase efficiency and generate electricity.

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