AUSTIN, TEXAS, HAS APPOINTED A TASK FORCE to study the feasibility of a change in the building code that would require all new single-family homes in the city to be zero-energy–capable by 2015.

“The NAHB Research Center put out a report this year that stated that zero-energy homes are feasible across the U.S. by 2020,” says Richard Morgan, green building manager for Austin Energy, the city-owned utility. “We figure we're a little ahead of the curve here, and 2015 should be feasible for us.”

The city's goal is to make all homes built within the jurisdiction of Austin zero-energy–capable with on-site energy generation, which with today's technology means solar voltaics, Morgan says. That would make the houses about 60 percent more efficient than similar units built today.

The task force will develop strategies to be piloted through Austin Energy's green building program. Those strategies that save a significant amount of energy in a cost-effective way will be included in the city's energy code.

Austin builder Ray Tonjes, a member of the task force and chairman of the NAHB's Green Building Subcommittee, says the target date of 2015 is “aggressive, but doable. ... I think the real challenge is to do all this and make it cost-effective and make it market-feasible. However, I'm very, very optimistic.”

Texas' capital has been a leader in energy efficiency, Morgan says, and adopted the country's first green building program. That effort, which started in 1991, has saved so much energy that Austin has avoided having to build a medium-sized power plant.

“We've been leading the way with this effort,” Morgan says. “This task force is the next step.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Austin, TX.