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Green Building News

Custom, Small, and Green in Fort Worth

Don Ferrier builds a home in Texas that has attracted attention for being understated as well as energy efficient

In Texas. Dubbed the Zero Energy Casita, this two-bedroom home features a shell built with structural insulated panels. The builder, Ferrier Custom Homes, also used reclaimed beams and barn siding to make house look like a longtime fixture on the Fort Worth landscape.
Image Credit: Travis Laminack Photography for Ferrier Custom Homes
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In Texas. Dubbed the Zero Energy Casita, this two-bedroom home features a shell built with structural insulated panels. The builder, Ferrier Custom Homes, also used reclaimed beams and barn siding to make house look like a longtime fixture on the Fort Worth landscape.
Image Credit: Travis Laminack Photography for Ferrier Custom Homes
Placement on the site – a lakefront property – aimed to make the most of passive solar gain in the winter, shading from existing trees in the summer, and views of the lake. Ferrier used structural insulated panels made by FischerSIPS, based in Louisville, Kentucky, for the Casita's exterior walls and the roof. Ferrier Custom Homes says it used advanced framing techniques throughout the interior. The siding and most of the interior beams are reclaimed wood. Weathershield Zo-e-shield 5 windows – double-pane and gas-filled, with low-e coatings – are used throughout. The clients opted for a reflective Galvalume standing-seam coated-steel roof, which, the builder says, reflects 70% of the sunlight that hits it. The Casita’s source of renewable energy is this pivoting Skystream wind turbine, which stands 45 feet tall. The turbine blades are curved to minimize noise.

One of the biggest homebuilding attractions online recently has been a house that isn’t very big at all. Dubbed the Zero Energy Casita by its builder, Fort Worth, Texas-based Ferrier Custom Homes, this recently completed two-bedroom is only 1,051 sq. ft. and is designed to operate at net zero energy, or very near it.

Ferrier’s clients, in this case, use the house as a second home, and it does present as very much the cozy hideaway, with a rustic exterior and a lakefront view. But the design and material features of the house, from its siting and well-insulated shell to its use of reclaimed materials and renewable energy, give it considerable green cachet.

Don Ferrier, president of Ferrier Custom, favors the use of structural insulated panels for exterior walls and roofs on his projects, and this one was no exception. FischerSIPS, based in Louisville, Kentucky, produced the panels. The siding, however, departs from what’s typically found on a new house: the clients “wanted the house to look like it’s been there 150 years,” Ferrier says, so he used reclaimed siding for the skin and used salvaged flooring and 8×8 barn beams for interior finishes.

Low waste, high performance

Reuse and waste reduction actually were guiding concepts for most of the build: excess lumber and sheetrock were mulched on site for use in landscaping, and most of the plastics, metals, cardboard, and other jobs-site materials were recycled. The completed house includes rainwater catchment for irrigation, xeriscaping, Energy Star appliances, water-conserving fixtures, and low-VOC and formaldehyde-free finishes, adhesives, and countertop materials.

An air-source heat pump serves the house in the winter. To counter the Texas summer heat, the house is equipped with an air conditioner with a 16 SEER rating, and a high-efficiency particulate air filtration system. In addition to the SIP shell, a few other features help mitigate the energy draw of these appliances, especially during the summer: the siting of the house, which is shaded by a nearby oak tree and some 40-foot shrubs; a reflective, standing-seam steel roof with Galvalume coating; double-pane, gas-filled Weathershield windows with low-e coatings; and the renewable-energy system – a 45-foot Skystream wind turbine with a 3.7 kW capacity.

As noted in a recent Buildingonline.com post, the Casita scored a 30 on the Department of Energy’s E-Scale in preliminary tests. Not quite net-zero-energy performance, but still impressive. In an interview with Ecohome magazine, Ferrier noted that the house cost $312,000, excluding land. Since this is a showcase project, and Ferrier has committed to certifying every home it builds under LEED for Homes, the National Green Building Standard, Energy Star, the DOE’s Builders’ Challenge, and Green Built Texas standards, we’ll update this post when the ratings results are announced.

4 Comments

  1. Doug McEvers | | #1

    Unaffordable housing
    312k for 1,051 sf, we are heading in the wrong direction. I would dearly love to know the appraised value of this dwelling.

  2. SM | | #2

    not supposed to be affordable
    This project is not an affordable housing project. It was a highly custom project for a well-funded client using a lot of reclaimed materials and custom finishes. That is where the higher cost came into play, not the efficiency features and renewable energy elements. The client gets what the client wants and is able to pay for. It is very possible to build a small, energy efficient, and energy-generating house for less, just not with the kind of materials used in this Casita.

  3. Doug McEvers | | #3

    Affordable net zero homes
    Do you have an example of a small, energy efficient and energy-generating house that is affordable and consistent with current home prices on a square foot basis?

  4. Michael Chandler | | #4

    How about an affordable 100 watt home?
    Here's a very elegant home that uses very little power and feeds twice as much electricity into the grid as it takes out but was built on a very light budget. (even Riversong would approve of this one)

    http://www.frogpondfarm.org/index.html

    Occupant behavior plays a big part. I know that on cloudy days Larry will not turn on his demand water heater and instead will take a cold shower. Wonderful folks. Very positive and enthusiastic about everything they do.

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