Zero-Energy Homes Add Up

Filed in Codes and Regulations, Environmental by on December 6, 2017 0 Comments

zeroThere’s a goose egg in their name, but don’t be fooled: studies show that zero-energy homes are growing in number and popularity.

Findings from the 2017 SmartMarket Brief showed an uptick of single-family home builders who are developing zero, near-zero or zero-energy ready homes. A report released by the Net-Zero Energy Coalition also indicates growth in this sector of the market.

A true zero-energy home generates as much renewable energy as it consumes, a near zero-energy home consumes slightly more energy than it produces and a zero-energy ready home is an energy-efficient home that can be converted to zero with the addition of renewable energy. These distinct home characteristics are often grouped together, so it is important to know the difference.

“It’s still a small percentage of the market, but builders are excited about it. They want to do it,” said Brandon Bryant, an Asheville, N.C.-based green builder and member of the NAHB Board of Directors. Bryant is owner of Red Tree Builders, whose portfolio includes net-zero homes. Bryant includes high-performance windows, geo-thermal heating and cooling systems, sealed duct work, reclaimed and recycled wood, Energy Star-certified appliances and other green features into his projects.

The construction of zero-energy buildings should continue to gain momentum. The Net-Zero Energy Coalition report noted several high-volume projects under development that have committed to or are considering the U.S. Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home certificate. These include a community outside of Denver with about 4,000 units and a home development in Arizona with roughly 3,000 units.

Bryant says technological advances and consumer interest will motivate builders and consumers to consider net-zero homes. But he admits there are inherent challenges with this type of construction.

In his case, the trees and mountains in Asheville can limit sun exposure and thus the ability to generate solar power. “You have to remember that not every site is possible,” he said.

NAHB Energy and Green Codes and Standards Subcommittee Chairman Jim Zengel agreed.

“Zero-energy building is an innovative way to foster sustainability and healthy living, and I am encouraged by its increase in market share,” he said. “But zero-energy activities must remain voluntary. Builders and home buyers should decide if it is the best approach to take for their projects.”

For more information about NAHB’s sustainable building activities, visit nahb.org/green.

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