By Iris Richmond. Centex Homes takes green building to another level. In an effort to define zero energy in home building, the Dallas-based builder is constructing the first electricity-free house built by a production builder in Northern California.

Prompted by the state's energy crisis last year, Centex is knee-deep in an experiment to determine what it takes to build a house capable of producing all its own energy. "From an economic standpoint it's difficult," says consultant David Springer, president of Davis Energy Group in Davis, Calif. "The objective is to come as close as possible to zero-net energy while maintaining the house's marketability." But, Centex is aiming for zero.

The 3,070-square-foot prototype--featuring photovoltaic panels, solar water heaters, recycled wood products, blown-in cellulose insulation, and dual-pane windows--will be priced between $600,000 and $900,000, about 5 percent higher than nearby homes. As for the builder's cost, Centex division president David Barclay says it's too soon to tell. A mix of incentives, start-up costs for new systems, and other factors make it difficult to assess the costs at this time.

Photo: Courtesy Davis Energy Group

By 2010, California's goal is for 10 percent of all new homes built in the state to be equipped with zero-energy systems. Along with the energy technology, Centex is testing buyer demand for the home. Already, there are interested buyers for the house (scheduled for completion in June) who are willing to work with Centex for six months to aid in the ongoing research.

BIG BUILDER Magazine, April 2002