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Green Building Thrives in a Down Economy

Heather Ferrier’s family has been building for a long time. Her great grandfather was a stone mason who came over from Scotland and helped build the Texas state capital. Heather’s father Don has been building most of his life, and saw 20 years ago how building green just made more sense. Every year, his firm has seen the public interest in green building increase and they are currently assisting the city of Ft. Worth develop a set of green building codes for the town. In fact Ferrier Homes is set for a record year of business, which is a real testimony to green building in these slow business times.

Construction

The 2,028 square foot home has a slab-on-grade foundation, which is often the most cost efficient foundation type. The slab was not insulated as the climate in Texas is quite mild and it was not deemed necessary. The walls for this home were constructed with 4 ½" thick SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) and the cathedral ceiling with 8.25" thick SIPS. Ferrier homes have built over 30 SIP homes as it is a fast and energy efficient way to build. The metal roof is silver color which helps to reflect the hot summer sun.

The home is heated with a Daikin air source heat pump system and is cooled with a Daikin 3 ton (SEER 19) air source heat pump.The calculations indicated that the home needed only a 2.1 ton unit, but that size unit wasn’t available at construction time. In order to conserve energy, the home has an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator). Heather has had very few problems with any of this equipment, as these units are usually standard in all the firm’s homes. The only tweak that the home needed was an additional temperature sensor in the great room. The room had a tall cathedral ceiling, and during the first winter the room was a little cold. Once the new sensor was placed, the problem was fixed.

The home has ceiling fans in all bedrooms, low VOC paint, rainwater catchment systems, low flow showers and faucets and many more sustainable features. The home has slightly more fenestration than is usually prescribed, but Heather really enjoys daylighting. The heating bills are a little higher than expected and this may have been as a result of these additional windows. 

The home takes advantage of passive solar principles. Solar orientation is the first thing that the firm looks at when designing a home. The house is nestled near a cluster of big oak trees to provide natural shading. The trees, in addition to the awnings and overhangs help control the summer heat gain.

The home has served as an educational prototype for the public. To date, over 5,000 people have been through the home. It is a member of the Department of Energy’s Building America program, and it was also a part of the LEED home pilot program. While LEED certification involved a lot of additional paperwork, Heather feels that it was worth it and now, Ferrier rates all their homes with LEED rather than EnergyStar certified which they previously sought.

The home could have been taken to net-zero, but Heather’s budget didn’t allow for this. The home has a solar hot water system and it is also pre-wired and ready for a PV system as soon as it becomes more economical. The home is sub-metered which will be a great help in the summer. The energy use for the home is constantly monitored as Heather feels that it is one thing to incorporate innovative energy systems, but if their performance is not being monitored, a crucial part is being missed. Monitoring has helped Ferrier homes stand by what they build and prove the savings to their clients. Homeowners like seeing how their choices affect their energy use; knowledge is power.