March 15, 2008
By DAVID SCHECHTER
How would you like to save $450 a year on utility bills, and help save the earth? It happens every day in Frisco.
At a time when state and local leaders are slow to make changes that move us to energy independence -- cities are leading the way.
We're so removed from where our energy comes from-- it's easy to forget our homes are plugged into a power plant. "The meter spins on the outside and it spins and we don't know what that means," said Jim Sargent, a home builder.
You know that coal thatís burning in the power plants? Itís burning for you, and it's expensive.
When it comes to home building -- Jim Sargent, is the Godfather of Green. Sargent said that it costs nothing to heat and cool one of his homes.
Sargent's high-end model is a demonstration of what's possible one day. But every home built in Frisco is an example of what's practical now.
Each Frisco home uses 15-percent less energy than a new home built in another community. In Frisco -- that's the law.
"No one told us it was impossible, so we did it," said Jeff Witt, Frisco Environmental Planner.
Seven years ago Frisco created minimum standards for energy efficiency. They were the first in the country to do so.
At the time Frisco was competing for new development-- and adding $2,000 - $3,000 to the cost of construction was a gamble.
Sargent says the decision was an act of political courage.
Mike Simpson was a councilman at the time. "Iím very proud I was involved in the decision at the time," said Simpson.
Today, he's mayor of a city that's seen 11,000 new homes built since the standards were adopted.
Frisco says homeowners save an average of about $450 a month in utility bills.
"You know what? It didn't hurt our housing sales. It didn't hurt our new home sales. We actually led the area in 2004, 5, 6 for new single family permits," said Simpson.
Seven years later, many communities across the country have followed suit, few of them in Texas.
Jeff Witt said he thinks the reluctance to do so in Texas is that we as human beings are resistant to change.
The way Sargent sees it --if every new house was 15-percent more energy-efficient, Texas would be much better off.
"That's a chunk. That's not changing a light bulb. That's a chunk," said Sargent.
All new homes in Frisco must be approved by a third party company that tests for energy efficiency.
Sargent says, it's that kind of oversight -- not necessarily materials-- that forces builders to build tighter homes.
Fair Use notice