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Green Building News

Two Firsts for a Near-Zero House in Texas

A three-bedroom “concept house” in San Angelo is the town’s first LEED for Homes Platinum home and the first near-zero home in the nation to receive HUD funding, city officials say

Ribbon cutting San Angelo officials celebrate the completion of the city’s first net-zero energy home. City officials noted that it is the first NZEH in the nation to receive U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding.
Image Credit: City of San Angelo

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.”


  1. GBA Editor
    Richard Defendorf | | #1

    About our revisions to this post ...
    John Straube, an engineer with Building Science Corporation, sent the following response to our original post (which we have since updated) on the HUD home in San Angelo:

    “Makes me wonder. A dozen 200 W panels = 2.4 kWp, which should generate about 3000 kWh or less per year in West Texas. How the hell does this house use only 3000 kWh/yr? It takes that much for just DHW! – forget lighting cooling, heating etc. Any chance of checking the claim that this house is NZ?”

    We forwarded John’s comment to Universal Design Consortium, whose president, Steve Mueller, wrote back to say that John’s comments are correct and that the PV system, working in conjunction with other design strategies installed in the building, are expected to limit electrical bills to $40 to $50 a month. “The building was originally designed to be a true ZEH,” Mueller writes, “but the community development/HUD budget would be exceeded if we installed the PV system sized to achieve this. Hence the reduction to 2.4 kW.”

    Steve also elaborated on the overall strategy for the three HUD homes – including the 1,332-sq.-ft. ranch-style house, known as HUD 1:

    “The home in San Angelo is the first of three prototype concept homes that will be constructed over the next year to test specific zero energy strategies: passive solar, insulation envelope/heat gain mitigation, energy conservation and energy production, to name a few. Data collected 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. … Data is still being collected to determine actual performance of the HUD 1 prototype and that information will be published in July 2010 (1 year). HUD 1 is just beginning its testing and evaluation stage. The home has made history as being the first LEED Platinum HUD home in history.”

  2. Doyle | | #2

    Near-zero energy home
    For later versions, you might try adding a solar hot water system to further reduce the external fuel/energy requirements. A properly sized system might cost less than $4000 in a new house this size, and cover most of the Domestic Hot Water needs. Reasoning from the previous commenters numbers, that could save the equivalent of nearly a dozen PV panels, i.e. bring it closer to net-zero energy.

  3. William Branham | | #3

    Regional Solar Market Transformation
    A goal of these types program is to accelerate the development of advanced photovoltaic solar technologies with the goal of making them cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity from the utility grid by 2015.

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