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Evolving into a New Era of Home Building

Net-Zero Energy Homes designed for the Future of our Planet

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”   – Buckminster Fuller

Ever since the first cave family decided to move out of their drafty subterranean dwelling into a sun-drenched lean-to shelter in the suburbs, homes have been becoming more energy efficient. Through the years, home builders and buyers have adapted building techniques to address climates, forces of nature and social needs. Today, homes from big cities to remote regions are ready to enter into a new era, with change being driven by an urgent need to conserve precious resources, clean air, water and energy, not to mention land itself.

Fuller’s notion is very applicable to our present-day situation. Today’s existing reality is that standardized home construction practices need to be updated to a new sustainable model of building. In other words, a Zero-Energy or Net-Zero Energy-Ready Home.

A Net-Zero Ready home is built to be more energy-efficient than a conventional home built to minimum code requirements. Improved energy efficiency is achieved by using:

  • Additional insulation.
  • High-quality, energy-efficient windows and doors.
  • Energy Star® appliances.
  • LED lighting and lower water use fixtures.

These features, combined with intentional design, utilizing natural heating and cooling qualities along with the introduction of natural light, all add up to the highest energy efficiency possible, well above the usual standards. A Net-Zero Energy home is complete with all of the efficiency elements, plus the addition of solar energy and other renewable sources to offset the home’s energy consumption.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the residential and commercial sectors consume about 70% of the total electricity in the United States. Currently, fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas are required to produce the majority of that energy. Unfortunately, emissions from burning these fossil fuels are extremely harmful for the environment and human health, and must be phased out as soon as possible.

Thankfully, Zero-Energy Ready and Zero-Energy homes have crossed the threshold to becoming financially viable for home builders. A study performed by the Rocky Mountain Institute highlighted that Zero-Energy homes have an average cost premium of 7.3% and Zero-Energy Ready homes have an average of just 1.8% cost premium compared to baseline code-built homes. The study also finds that homebuyers are willing to pay as much as 4% more for a green built home. And that’s before tax incentive help compensating for the extra cost. So the question remains: Why aren’t we building more of them now?

Sad as it may seem, we are currently at the proverbial crossroads of maintaining a habitable planet for our species or possibly setting the stage for the end of humanity as we know it. At least as far as home building is concerned, the tools have been developed and the technology is in place to evolve like our cavemen ancestors and build a better future.

For additional information, visit a local-based website, zeroenergyproject.org and the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Home page at energy.gov/eere/buildings/zero-energy-ready-homes.

Some information provided by ABBIE AND RICK SAMS

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