Affordable Green House
Four years ago, Heather was a recent college graduate working full-time at Ferrier Custom Homes, her father's company, and daydreaming about buying her own house. Around that time, her father, Don Ferrier, got hooked on the idea of building a home that would be not only entirely "green" but also affordable for the average American family.
Heather was game to be his guinea pig: As a child, she'd struggled with asthma and allergies and understood how a home could affect one's well-being; now a vegetarian and a "conscious consumer," she says she's always "looking for ways to tread more lightly on the planet." So the Ferriers hired Dallas-based architect Gary Gene Olp to design a home that would be, according to Olp, "contemporary, easy-to-build, highly energy-efficient, and lovely." The biggest challenge was to accommodate Heather's construction budget of $115 per square foot, a pea-size figure compared to other green homes.
Every design decision was made with both budget and earth-friendliness in mind. Sculptural glass blocks allow ample sunlight into Heather's living room, which reduces the need for lamps and fixtures. When she must have artificial light, Heather uses energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs.
Eco-Friendly Home Exterior
The house was designed around passive solar principles, to take advantage of one of the state's most abundant resources: sunlight. Solar panels on the roof soak up the sun's energy to generate hot water, while strategically placed windows and awnings minimize sunlight in the summer and maximize it in the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky. As a result, the entire space is so bright that Heather hardly ever needs to turn on a lamp during the day (in fact, much of the O at Home photo shoot was conducted without supplemental lighting).
"In Texas, keeping the sun and heat out of the home is our big thing," Heather says. To that end, the awnings on the south-facing back of the house control the amount of sun that filters through the windows.
Outside, a 3,000-gallon tank catches rainwater, which is used to flush the toilets and water the lawn.
Clean-Living in the Kitchen
In the kitchen and bathroom, cabinets are made of locally harvested white ash. The paint is VOC-free, meaning there were no toxic fumes.
"The house is pretty modern, so I wanted to balance it with a more rustic kitchen," says Heather. She brought the Cost Plus World Market breakfast table from her former home.
Saving Energy While You Sleep
Like many of the home's appliances, the Hampton Bay ceiling fan in the bedroom is approved by Energy Star, a government-backed program dedicated to energy conservation. Heather furnished her bedroom with a chair from Ikea, a bed from Sears, and a table, lamp, and linens from Target.
Heather's floors are made from bamboo (a rapidly renewable resource, as anyone who's tried to get rid of the plant in her yard can attest) and polished concrete (an inexpensive material that retains heat during the winter and stays cool in the summer).
Leaves fell on wet concrete during construction of the porch. "We tried to pick them out but decided to leave them," Heather says. "They're even inside the houseit's like going back to nature." The chaise is from Ikea.
Heather's Conservation Success
In the upstairs bathroom, Heather conserves water by using low-flow faucets in the sink and shower. "The contractor discouraged me from doing so, but I wish I'd used more red tiles," she says of the mosaic of one-inch square tiles in the bathroom. "The room is feminine but fun, and it's my absolute favorite part of the house."
So how did the Ferriers' collaboration go? Swimmingly, by every measure. The house came in just under budget and Heather loves the place. It's won a bevy of honors, including one from the American Lung Association's Health House program and the platinum LEED certification, the highest rating for building-sustainability. (Heather's is the first residence in Texas, and the third in the country, to receive the LEED honor.)
To support her father's vision, Heather opens her home frequently for tours, and more than 4,700 people have traipsed through to date. "The first weekend we had the finished house open for tours, a woman marched up to me with a checkbook and said, 'I want to buy it now,'" Heather says. Wisely, she demurred. Good citizen of the planet and daughter that she is, Heather handed over one of her father's business cards instead. Ways to save the planet and save money
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