Sustainable construction and design isn’t just a hot trend, it’s becoming the norm. The need for environmentally friendly construction is ushering in innovative design strategies and new benchmarks for the building materials industry. One of the most popular, and arguably important, concepts in sustainable design is the move towards zero-energy buildings. Zero-energy buildings are facilities that have zero net energy consumption. In other words, the annual net energy use of these structures is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. These projects call for the integration of renewable energy systems and zero-energy applications, which can make them a bit intimidating to builders. However, these kinds of initiatives are very possible with the right team and resources. We’ve compiled a list of zero-energy homes that incorporate sustainable construction into the building process. The results are 5 facilities that prove zero net energy can be achieved with careful planning and appropriate implementation.
In 2013, Fox Blocks began a project in River Falls, Wisconsin. St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity (SCVHFH) partnered with Fox Blocks to construct the Eco Village.
Executive Director Jim Farr wanted the Village to reach LEED Platinum Certification while achieving zero net energy consumption. Fox Blocks ICF was the building product needed to reach both goals. The product not only satisfied the criteria needed for certification, but provided the heavy-duty barrier to withstand urban noise, insects, extreme weather, and the elements.
The Eco Village is now home to a healthy American community, and continues to promote sustainability and environmental involvement.
Last year, a North Carolina-based homebuilding company launched its line of net zero energy homes. In response to the high demand for sustainable housing, Deltec showcased houses that are not only energy-efficient, but generate their own energy through solar power. What makes this project so fascinating is the affordability of the homes. With a purchasing price less than $100K, these facilities are more affordable than many houses that are not LEED certified, proving that net-zero construction is cost-effective.
This home in Oakland Hills saves up to 90% of heating and cooling costs. BONE Structure was able to attain this unique sustainable feature through its insulation system. The house has a soy-based polyurethane envelope that allows homeowners to save money on heating and air conditioning. In addition to this insulation, the home includes BONE Structure’s patented steel construction system and large windows. These features cut down on long-term costs by providing a house that is built to last and allows in an ample amount of natural light.
SolAire Homebuilders released this house that effectively achieves NET ZERO and ENERGY STAR certification. Like the first two structures on this list, this home attains zero net energy consumption primarily through insulation and solar power. The builders of this home were careful to seal the entire house, preventing cold air from getting inside, while constructing the facility to reduce thermal bridging. Inside the house, homeowners can take the initiative and save energy themselves. 100% LED lighting and Energy Performance Score model-aligned heat pumps give owners the opportunity to fully obtain net zero energy. Similar to BONE Structure’s house in Oakland Hills, long-term expenses are drastically cut in this home.
In 2013, Vivint partnered with Garbett Homes to produce Utah’s first net zero energy home. In addition to advanced construction and insulation techniques, this project makes homeowners’ habits more environmentally friendly.
By providing sustainable lighting, a programmable thermostat, and real-time energy analytics, residents are able to look at how they are using energy and what they can do to be more sustainable.
Not only do these homes eliminate unnecessary long-term expenses, but the initial cost is also competitive. The purchasing price of these facilities starts at $350K.
What should be noted among these 5 examples is not only the smart planning, but the cost and time of these projects. With projects such as the Eco Village breaking ground in as early as 2012, these initiatives are not brand new. This, along with the low cost of the facilities, shows that net zero energy consumption is not difficult to attain with the appropriate resources. As LEED certification and sustainable planning become requirements for the industry, it’s crucial to begin implementing net-zero and net zero ready concepts. With the right team and planning, entire net zero energy neighborhoods can be constructed.