David Hurt's Remarkable Sustainable House

Audubon conservationist and founder of Wild Birds Unlimited David Hurt has turned green builder. 8802 Eustis is the first of a planned group of 4 Sustainable Houses to be built along the shady Little Forest Hills street. They will all be built on spec, and this one is being sold through Kimberlee Gromatsky at Ellen Terry.

Says Hurt: "I started out to build a house that had an energy bill that averaged not more than $100 a month. When I bought the lots for this project three years ago, the words "green" and "sustainable' were not household words." 

My, how things have changed.

Hurt teamed up with noted architect and friend Gary Cunningham, who created an unusual stucco exterior embedded with six shades of green, to play off the backdrop of old growth trees. 

I reached Hurt by cellphone, where he was deep in the middle of moving his Lovers Lane birding store into a new location down the road. "The exterior colors are imbedded into the concrete," Hurt said. "It's not stucco like you remember from 80s condos, it's smooth and sleek and such an usual use of the material."

The only exterior paint is under the eaves, and it's Benjamin Moore Eco Spec, "a tough paint that's kind to the planet," he says. The exterior was designed to be completely maintenance free, as was the yard. 

David Hocker of Hocker Design Group created the mow-free, no-watering-needed grounds using 95 percent native plants. "We couldn't resist the everyday utility of a couple of antique roses that require no special care and the robustness of Tropical Giant Spider Lily," Hurt adds. "We've been seeing hummingbirds daily at the red yucca and the hundreds of turk's caps."

The deck material is Trex, a durable recycled milk jug and recycled wood fiber material. "This house has two decks, one upstairs overlooking the tree canopy and one on ground level with four sliding doors. This will be a great house for privacy, drinking your coffee each morning listening to the birds and the babbling of the creek."

Hurt continues: "To me, sustainable is really high performance when it comes to energy. It has a super efficient HVAC system (Carrier Infinity 19) and a window/door insulation package to match. It's easy to say a house is energy efficient, but nothing was slapped up or covered up. We are not losing air into the attic because of sloppy duct work. I built it as if I were going to live there."

The inside is a simple finish with maple veneer cabinets and doors, made by a local cabinet maker. "Green also means locally sourced," Hurt says. 

Floors are clear-sealed concrete and FSC Certified maple flooring, which means no forests were destroyed to harvest the wood. But he laments having to go all the way to Canada to source it. "I'm a bird watcher and I hate to see forests clear cut. It's horrible for the wildlife."

You won't see a solar panel on this house. "Solar engineering would have only been 28 percent efficient because of the tree coverage," Hurt says. "We'd have to remove the trees, and we weren't going to do that. The best option was to make the house more energy efficient." 

This fall, the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center opens in Cedar Hill, spearheaded by Hurt and his wife Kim, who donated 300 acres of their own land and countless hours of their time, for what will be a nature center for children and families, with hiking trails. Sustainable House was a natural offshoot of his life's work, Hurt says.

 "I'm a conservationist. Anything I do will have a conservationist's stamp of approval. People have to have a place to live, so why not build houses? We try to be authentic. For a small home, it turned out great."

Stylists Cliff Ellman, Jane Mills.

Thanks to friend and former colleague Cliff Ellman for letting me know about this special house. Ellman and his partner Jane Mills staged the interiors for Ellen Terry. Their fledgling company, Spiffi Decor, specializes in modern interiors staging, which is apparently hard to come by in Dallas. They did a beautiful job, especially playing off the all the green colors outside.