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Community Guide to Basic and Cost-Saving Construction in the American Southwest

January 2004, 140 pages

Homes that are affordable in the short and long term: a pioneering idea for the rural American Southwest.

Community Guide to Basic and Cost-Saving Construction in the American SouthwestThis guide is written for non-profit housing developers, local housing advocates, self-help homeowners, and community groups that provide housing in the rural Southwest. Written in English and Spanish, this publication discusses the cost benefits of durable, energy-efficient home construction and rehabilitation. The guide provides over 30 recommendations on methods and technologies, and addresses some of the barriers to affordable housing development that builders and small rural communities face today.

FULL TEXT: Adobe Acrobat (*.pdf, 1,45 MB)

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Key Findings:

  • Community education is important to combat NIMBYism, which often forces housing providers to build on sites that are too remote to make affordable housing feasible.
  • Nonprofit homeownership training programs that provide education on home maintenance, financing, etc., can greatly reduce mortgage default rates.
  • Use of 2x6 exterior walls at 24 inches-on-center allows for increased insulation, which may downsize heating/air conditioning equipment.
  • Oversized air conditioning can quickly cool a house or room, but the frequent short cycles do not remove enough humidity from the house, creating the risk of mold.
  • Programmable thermostats can achieve about 10% energy savings per year by setting temperatures back eight hours each day.


  • Design spaces to serve more than one function to reduce material and labor costs.
  • Use passive solar design to deflect the sun's heat in warm weather and reduce the cooling load.
  • In bathrooms and kitchens, install exhaust fans that vent to the outside to control mold.
  • Place HVAC equipment and ductwork fully inside conditioned space for lower initial equipment costs and better energy efficiency.
  • Use the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) guidelines, ACCA Manual J Residential Load Calculation, for sizing HVAC equipment and ductwork.
  • Use compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) to reduce air conditioning loads.
  • Educate potential homebuyers to increase civic participation.

See page 19 for an Energy Efficient Mortgage decision-making flowchart and cost analysis.

See page 110 for a case study of how one community addressed the obstacles to homeownership.

Content updated on 11/29/2006

Building Better Homes at Lower Costs
Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor
Southwest Housing Traditions: Design, Materials, Performance
Codes & Regulations
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