It is more than a little encouraging when we see a new near-zero-energy house that not only meets the criteria for a LEED for Homes Platinum rating, but also for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding.
That happens to be the case for a 1,332-sq.-ft. ranch-style home recently completed in the West Central Texas town of San Angelo. Showcased during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, the three-bedroom, two-bath house is billed as San Angelo’s first near-zero energy house and the first of its kind in the nation to receive funding through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Program.
The HUD grant covered the cost of the property’s solar panels, metal roof, and gray-water recycling system, Robert Salas, assistant director of development services for the city, told the San Angelo Standard-Times. The balance on the $152,000 home is covered by a mortgage that will be serviced by the home’s very delighted owner, Caroline Bowman, who spent several years on the San Angelo Community Development Division’s waiting list for prospective homeowners.
Lubbock-based Universal Design Consortium, the architecture firm that designed Bowman’s house, notes on its Web site that the design and materials standards used for the home are intended to set the stage for two more HUD-funded projects – San Angelo officials call them “concept homes” – slated for construction in the coming months.
An efficiency strategy
UDC says a tight envelope and passive solar are at the heart of its design, which also features a high level of adaptability for handicapped occupants. The HVAC system, which features round ductwork for increased efficiency and ease of cleaning, is expected to operate at 98% efficiency.
The home’s insulation package includes closed-cell foam insulation in the exterior 3 1/2-inch wall cavities. UDC says it used an exterior 2×4 wall assembly that, in concert with the foam insulation, careful construction, and a PV system that includes a dozen 200-watt panels mounted on a separate storage building, will deliver overall near-zero energy performance.
UDC’s president, Steve Mueller, told GBA that data collected on a year’s performance of this first concept home, also known as HUD 1, “will eventually lead us to the overall goal of achieving a zero-energy stance for a building design that can be adopted for low- to moderate-(income) single- and multifamily housing applications.” Bringing HUD 1 true net-zero performance, he noted, would have required a PV system that would have exceeded the community development/HUD budget.
HUD funding played a significant role in keeping the project affordable. As Salas explained to the Standard Times, the typical cost of a similar home for low- or moderate-income families that has some energy-efficient elements but is not at zero energy is about $95,000.
Mueller added that the project’s cost restrictions were a challenge but by no means unrealistic. “We have always focused on low- to moderate-income households, and we’ve worked on getting the price for constructing the house down. We’ve worked on getting their monthly expenditures reduced to make it affordable,” Mueller told the paper. “That’s what a zero-energy house is supposed to be used for. A lot of people like to do this and show it off. This one is functional, and that’s always been our objective.”