Most lakefront propertyowners in the early stages of planning a home are all about the view. This was owner Kevin Eden’s primary focus until he talked to several neighbors who’d installed wind turbines. That’s when he realized that his one-acre site’s vantage point up on a bluff not only afforded a lovely perspective, but also was perfectly positioned to capture the breezes coming off Eagle Mountain Lake.

So he called his builder, Don Ferrier, and changed the specs in his contract from “light green” to net zero. The big-ticket item and game-changer, of course, was a $15,000, 3.7 kW Skystream wind turbine. Standing 45 feet tall, it’s an investment Eden expects to recoup in about seven years. On windy days, the turbine feeds energy back into the grid and racks up energy credits that can be applied to the overall utility balance.

Ferrier’s job, meanwhile, was to balance the other half of the equation with an emphasis on modest energy usage. The first structure to go up, the 1,015-square-foot “zero energy casita,” will serve as the family’s quarters until an equally efficient, 3,500-square-foot home is built a few years down the road. At that point, the casita will become a mother-in-law residence.

Net Zero Housing

But for now, the casita’s two bedrooms, two baths, and open kitchen/great room make an idyllic second home. It maintains an extremely small energy footprint, thanks to 6 1/2-inch SIPs wall panels and a 10 1/4-inch SIPs roof panel topped with a galvanized standing-seam metal roof that reflects 70 percent of the sun’s radiant heat. Vents under the roof’s corrugated ridges evacuate residual hot air, and the envelope is shored up with Weathershield low-E double-pane windows and a 16-SEER Carrier A/C unit with programmable thermostats.

“It’s important to get the energy consumption as low as possible before you start putting any kind of renewable energy source into the mix,” says Ferrier, who built the very first LEED Platinum home in Texas. “This is mostly a hot climate, so the most important thing is to keep the summer sun out. No. 2 is airtightness.”

Oriented to capture breezes while blocking unwanted solar gain, the casita is also equipped with dual-flush toilets, low-flow fixtures, PEX plumbing, a rainwater collection system, and reclaimed barn siding. And its tongue-and-groove hardwood flooring is made from an old chicken coop subfloor that was salvaged and repurposed.

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