Not much in Santa Fe – New Mexico’s “City Different” – is available for cheap, least of all its real estate, which, according to Zillow.com, still lingers in the $385,000 median-price range despite the downturn. But at least one builder in the area, Natural Homes of Prudential Santa Fe, has been marketing homes that it says operate at close to net-zero energy, typically cost less than the area median, and capitalize on one thing that is both abundant and free in Santa Fe – sunshine.
In a recent press release, Natural Homes announced that it “has delivered LEED-certified Zero-Energy Homes to buyers for less than $339,000, with some homes garnering as much as $25,000 in state and federal tax credits.” The company website notes that Natural Homes’ NZE houses start at $279,000 for a 1,200-sq.-ft. two-bedroom, two-bath. The price includes a two-car garage and the lot.
A high spot in northern New Mexico
Although not all of the homes it builds operate at net-zero, those that do feature R-21 exterior walls, an R-50 roof, a solar hot water system, and a grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) system with enough capacity to bring the home’s electricity costs to zero under average power usage. These homes have a HERS Index of 55 — calculated before considering the effect of the PV array.
Constructed by Renaissance Builders, the net-zero homes are designed in 1,200, 1,540, and 2,100-sq.-ft. configurations. Many of the properties shown on Natural Homes’ website are adobe-style structures that feature flat roofs, viga-beamed ceilings, and exterior walls that the company says are built using a cost-effective combination of stick framing and adobe construction.
Santa Fe is more than 7,000 ft. above sea level, sees cold winter weather, hot and dry summer days, and, because of the arid climate, cool summer nights. It gets about 300 sunny days a year.