Is one newly built house as energy efficient as another? Recently during the “Dallas Parade of Homes” there was a “zero energy home” on display. Architects Peter Pfeiffer FAIA, Alan Barley AIA and Donna Teiman had worked as a team with builder Jim Sargent to build an upmarket home using some techniques that are familiar in the UK.

“Energy Efficient Mortgages” was being publicised at the same time. This is a scheme supported by the Environmental Protection Agency and the mortgages are marketed by lenders who are keen on the resale values and the selling points of running a home at low cost. The extra cost of some of the energy saving features are paid back during the life of the mortgage. The lower monthly heating and air conditioning costs enable more to be lent, based on salary and outgoings, or payments to be reduced.

The US is clever at marketing simple, effective ideas. It may also push buyers who thought it would be a nice idea to be “green” but couldn’t see a rapid payback.

The new home has to be rated for energy efficiency before this type of mortgage is offered. It helps all the stakeholders. Those builders who build with standards above the newly tightened building codes stand out, proving that not all new houses are the same. There has been considerable interest generated in the “Zero Energy Home” in the Dallas area. Another builder, Carl Franklin Homes, is building a whole estate of “extremely energy efficient” housing. This is a first for Texas so attracted positive publicity.

In a market where energy costs are rising, could a British version of this type of mortgage help the timber industry?

Given the UK’s massive housing programme proposals and environmental concerns I’ve passed on details about the scheme to the British consul in Dallas to pass on to deputy prime minister John Prescott. I’ve also provided the information to the Co-op Bank and Barclays mortgage services departments and UK business banking contacts.