Green Approach for Coping with the High Cost of Infrastructure Services in US Colonias
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Colonias are unincorporated settlements along the U.S.-Mexican border. The lack of access to infrastructure systems combined with poor housing conditions has resulted in excessively high cost of electricity and heating and cooking gas for colonia residents. The efficacy of a passive solar (PS) housing system in reducing home energy consumption and expenses in colonias has been evaluated using empirical data. The system is implemented in the Tierra Madre colonia in southern New Mexico and consists of PS housing design (orientation and windows), PS water heater, straw bale exterior walls, foundation insulation, and careful construction inspection for energy efficiency. Statistical and economic analyses of two years worth of monthly electricity and liquid propane gas bills (January 2005 to February 2007) from Tierra Madre and a directly adjacent conventional colonia (Sunland Park) showed that this system can be effective in reducing home energy consumption and cost. On average, a Tierra Madre house saves 5.868 million Btus every year compared to a Sunland Park house (representing 25% reduction in home energy consumption and a saving of $194.28 per house per year). The payback period for the Tierra Madre PS system (which is estimated to cost an extra $1,730 per house) is 10.5 years. 2009 ASCE.