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HouZE

This is very cool.

Independence Heights earned a place in history as Texas’ first African-American city, settled in 1908 and sovereign until it was swallowed by the city of Houston 21 years later.

But tomorrow’s residents may be pioneers of another sort, as Mayor Annise Parker and a developer announced plans for as many as 80 energy-efficient homes powered entirely by natural gas and able to sell excess electricity to the grid, with the promise that home­owners won’t pay utility bills for at least a decade.

“We are the oil and gas capital of the world,” Parker said. “We intend to be the energy capital. But part of being the energy capital is understanding how not to use energy unnecessarily.”

The project, demonstrated in two model homes by Houze Advanced Building Science, offers what developer David Goswick describes as an entirely new style of energy-efficient house.

Built with metal framing and insulated panels, the houses have a Home Energy Rating System of 44, compared with a rating of 85 for Energy Star homes and a rating of 100 for the typical new home. (Lower is better.)

Once the technology is in place, the houses should achieve a rating of 0, Goswick said.

The models range from 1,600 to 1,650 square feet and will cost $200,000 to $225,000, and Goswick said homeowners will qualify for steep discounts on property insurance and other savings.

I received some materials for the press conference on this, which you can see here. There’s more information on HouZE here and on their Facebook page, which has a bunch of photos on it. I like this for two reasons. One of course is the energy efficiency of it, as that’s often an overlooked aspect of greenness, for lack of a better term, as well as being a boon for the homeowners. Two, I love that it’s being done in a historic, near-downtown neighborhood that has a lot of empty space in it and that needs the revitalization. There are concerns, as there always are, about pricing out existing residents, but as you can see from the story neighborhood leaders are involved in the project, which should hopefully help mitigate those aspects. Growth is better than decline or stasis, after all. I hope this succeeds and expands to other neighborhoods like the Independence Heights.

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