Houses designed by Peter Pfeiffer and Alan Barley of Barley and Pfeiffer Architects regularly get stellar ratings from the City of Austin's Green Builder Program. Pfeiffer's own home, which the firm designed, received the highest five-star rating in the program's history. That's why Jim Sargent of Anderson Sargent Custom Builder in Dallas knew he had the right guys when he asked Barley and Pfeiffer to design a show home for the 2004 Dallas Parade of Homes that would generate as much electricity as it used.
The Zero Energy Home that resulted is actually a demonstration project for the U.S. Department of Energy's "Building America" program, which gives incentives to homebuilders to construct more environmentally and fiscally responsible projects. Sargent, Barley, and Pfeiffer, and project manager Donna Tiemann expanded on this idea by creating a luxury home that's not lacking in amenities or aesthetics and would fit into any middle- to upper-class Dallas suburb. The distinction? No electricity bill.
The four-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot, bungalow-style home has a number of features that would keep energy costs down in any house: proper solar orientation, Energy Star-qualified appliances, increased natural ventilation, large roof overhangs for extra shading, light-colored exterior paint, and a spectrally selective roof coating to reduce radiant heat gain (despite the roof's dark color). With these design features alone, the house would generate utility costs equal to a standard home one-third its size (around $70 per month). What cinches the deal, however, is the $65,000 worth of solar panels affixed to the south- and west-facing metal roof. With these running at an eightkilowatt clip, the home generates all its own electricity rather than using energy from the grid.
Perhaps the most interesting story to come out of the project is that the house won the Dallas Parade of Homes' "Best Overall Design" award. Apparently tour goers were as dazzled by what they could see (luxurious design) as much as by what they couldn't (its energy savings).