Zero-energy homes, also known as net-zero homes, produce as much energy as they consume on an annual basis, sometimes producing more energy from solar panels, wind power, or other sources. These homes are far from mainstream, but home builders like South Carolina’s Todd Usher, guest writer for this blog post, are leading the race to get them there.
At Addison Homes, we’ve always been green – a progressive niche in a mostly conservative market. Our process of continuous improvement has moved us toward ever-deeper shades of efficiency.
So after a dozen years building the most energy-efficient homes in town – including our market’s first home certified by the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home program — we decided to go greener still and built the first mainstream zero energy home in Greenville, S.C.
Designed to showcase zero energy as an attractive, attainable option for conventional consumers, this home combines all the smarts of next-generation high-performance with the savvy of stylish simplicity sought by today’s home owners.
Call it green builder math: making zero energy equal a perfect 10 on current market trends.
Here are a few lessons we learned while mastering this equation.
Base your quality system on best practices. Addison Homes is committed building homes to verifiable national standards: the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, Indoor airPLUS and WaterSense labels as well as the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home program.
These programs — backed by years of building science expertise — provide well-researched practices that ensure we meet the promises we make to home owners regarding energy savings, comfort, indoor air quality and durability. These provide a perfect complement to our own internal quality processes and procedures.
Build strong partnerships with vendors. In addition to its first-in-Greenville zero energy status, this project is the Southeast’s first Active House-certified home. We’ve benefited from strong partnerships with vendors, many of whom participated, for example, in a pre-drywall tour we hosted for the local HBA and Sales & Marketing Council.
Marketing is a must. There’s always been a niche for extreme efficiency – and our goal is to bring that market to the mainstream by building an appealing example of what’s possible with zero energy.
Education is key: We’ve focused on defining what, exactly, zero energy means, how it works and, most important, how it benefits consumers in terms of monetary savings, health and wellness, and comfort.
Signs throughout the model home, for example, highlight products and processes. Our website is populated with information about high-performance building science, including an energy dashboard that allows visitors to view our solar photovoltaic system in action.
In addition, we get the message out via social media channels and our twice-monthly educational newsletter as well as interviews and articles in local news media.
The final lesson is this: The market wants solar homes. Our first zero energy home is the model in a 16-lot subdivision where, as of this writing, all but two home sites have been sold and every client has opted to add solar to their rooftop.
What’s more, the project has generated interest in renewable energy from our on-your-lot clients, too. “Build it and they will come,” we like to say – this might be cliché elsewhere, but here in Greenville, we never tire of saying so – and our project certainly proves this is a winning strategy.
Build zero energy and/or zero energy ready and clients will indeed come. We’ve learned that low utility bills are high on home buyers’ wish lists, and our model home shows that zero really is a perfect 10.
Todd Usher served as president of the HBA of Greenville and holds the distinction of being NAHB’s first-ever Master Certified Green Professional. See photos, descriptions and a project statement about Addison Homes zero-energy project at the company’s website.