Austin developers have been successfully selling homes in a (nearly) net-zero-energy suburb built in 2008, according to The New York Times:
To describe SOL Austin, the five-and-a-half-acre development in which Ms. Chapa resides, as “the matchbox houses” is both accurate and unfair.
Yes, the houses are small by American standards (they range from 1,030 to 1,816 square feet), and the architectural style is decidedly rectilinear. But the boxiness is mediated by the skyward tilt of butterfly roofs, angled to hold photovoltaic arrays and channel rainwater into barrels.
SOL, an acronym for Solutions Oriented Living, is an ambitious attempt to upend the conventions of the American subdivision. It was developed by a partnership between Chris Krager, a 43-year-old architect who heads a firm called KRDB, and Russell M. Becker, 47, a civil engineer and general manager and owner of Beck-Reit & Sons Ltd., a construction company.
The community is intended not just to be sustainable in its design and materials, but “net zero” — in other words, a housing development that would produce all the energy it consumed, with super-efficient homes outfitted with solar panels and geothermal wells. Moreover, this small development is also doing its part to take on the problems of economic and social injustice.
That it has been, so far, only partly successful in achieving these goals makes it no less interesting as a design experiment.
SOL is in East Austin, about three miles from downtown, an area designated African-American by a 1928 city plan. In 1962, the construction of I-35, a major north-south artery, further isolated the area’s population.