Video: Green houses a booming business

By Anne Thompson Chief environmental correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/1/2007 7:39:45 PM ET 2007-05-01T23:39:45

Bluebonnets symbolize the environment of old Texas, but today, energy efficient and environmentally friendly "green" homes may symbolize the new.

"A lot of people, I think, think green construction's gonna be an old VW bus with a peace symbol on the side of it — and tree-huggers," says Don Ferrier, a builder in Fort Worth, Texas.

It's anything but. Ferrier is building green homes that range from contemporary sophistication to Mediterranean villas.

The roof tiles are rubber — recycled tires that should last forever. The floor comes from a demolished gymnasium, saving trees and money. In green construction, recycling factors into the entire process. And it's not just the house. The building scrap — pieces of framing lumber and fiber cement siding — will be ground up and turned into mulch, to be put around the trees and flowerbeds. Even inside the contemporary home, the rug is a recycled product made out of corn husks and corn stalks. It feels like a typical wool rug.

Outside, a metal roof reflects the hot Texas sun, while awnings on the south facing windows are sized to keep the sun out in the summer, and in during the winter.

"What we'll find is this house will have an average bill of about $70 a month for just the total energy bill," Ferrier says.

That's a savings of more than 50 percent.

Comparing two homes in St. Louis — one built using green construction — thermal imaging shows in vivid color the difference in the insulating properties of the two homes. On a 25-degree day, the thermal imaging shows in red the heat escaping from the brick house. But little is coming out of the home built using green construction.

At the start,  it will cost you more — perhaps as little as two percent, say builders — but the long-term savings of unpredictable energy bills convinced retirees Gary and Sharon Pederson. 

"We are on fixed incomes and so we have to be able to maximize our dollars in the future," Gary says.

Saving money, energy and the Earth.

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