Solar Powered House

In the Upper Kirby area of Houston, construction is underway on what may be the city's only completely sefl-sustainable house. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports the house will generate all of it's power and water through solar energy and rain.

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The house sits at the corner of Colquitt and Virginia Streets. It's a tall steel beam and wood structure with an airy. Joe and Gail Adams are the architects who designed the home for the owners. Joe Adams says the orientation of the house is the essence of making it completely energy self-sufficient.

"This building is absolutely driven by its relationship to the sun. It's being powered by 140 photovoltaic panels, it has to know where the longest-lived during the course of any day sun exposure is about."

Everything in this house revolves around the sun, both literally and philosophically. Those solar panels capture sunlight all day long to power the house's electrical system.

"This really brutal light that we have in Texas in the southern and the western skies, that's what makes power. So it's about sun at every turn -- you know turning away from it, turning to it, receiving it for life and receiving it for power."

The house is also designed to avoid the effects of the sun. Most of the windows are on the north side. And there are huge sliding doors and breezeways to take advantage of Houston's light winds. Owners Dan and Adele Hedges commissioned the house, called Virginia Point. Adele Hedges says they didn't start out to build Houston's most environmentally friendly home.

"We went in thinking that yes, we wanted to be environmentally sensitive, and as we discussed the ideas with our architects, we discovered more and more technology that was available that got us very excited. So I think the project really grew."

It grew so much that if all goes according to plan, Virginia Point could become the only house in the region rated Platinum by LEED standards, that's the nation's highest green rating. And the house isn't just energy efficient. There are also huge containers buried in the ground to collect rainwater run-off. So the hedges will get all the water they need from the sky, not the local water supply. Dan Hedges says they'll save enough money over time through conservation to offset the cost of building such a high-tech home.

"We thought it would be a good idea to move into a house that had lower operating costs, lower maintenance costs, which the new house certainly will. And we also wanted to show people that that technology does exist, can be used in a house being built today."

And the Hedges say you don't have to build a brand-new home to be environmentally sensitive. There are a number of energy-saving measures homeowners can take right now. You can find out more on our website, KUHF dot org. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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