What was once thought of as an experimental performance objective for custom residential homes is now gaining strength. “Net Zero” is becoming a more familiar term throughout the housing industry for both contractors and homeowners. Simply stated, a net zero energy home is one that produces as much energy from renewable resources as it uses. They are virtually air-tight, well insulated, and so energy efficient that occupants can ultimately end up with a net zero energy bill. While there are certain challenges and scenarios where initial expenses are higher than conventional construction, the overall cost of ownership can be much less. The demand for high performance housing is increasing, which is consequently lowering material and labor costs. As the number of innovative builders and developers continues to grow throughout NYS others are motivated to consider the possibilities.
David Bruns is changing the way developers look at energy efficiency by proving that a net zero apartment development could be commercially viable in the extreme weather of the Northeast. Building netZero Village combines developer David Bruns’ three passions: engineering, energy efficiency, and residential real estate. His design is based on Passive House concepts, using careful analysis to predict energy consumption. The object was to achieve the long-term equilibrium between energy demand and supply that constitutes net zero energy performance, in which the renewable energy production offsets the energy consumed by the buildings.
Believing that houses should last centuries and not just decades, the president of Greenhill Contracting Inc., Anthony Aebi had a vision to create exceptional residential developments at competitive sale prices. Aebi began to build homes designed to be ultra-energy efficient by incorporating a tight thermal envelope, solar electric and ground source heating. Although some high-performance technologies can cost more, there are savings associated with these components as well. Applying alternative methods and materials, such as Insulated Concrete Forms, allowed Aebi to install multiple building elements at once to mitigate extra expenditures. By using smart technologies and creative building methods as well as incorporating ENERGY STAR® appliances, Aebi could realize his goal and provide clients with homes that are environmentally and economically efficient.
Further, Inc. for R-951
Three talented individuals with a collective 60 years of experience in eco-friendly design joined together to create an innovative, ultra-efficient residential structure. Further, Inc. is an exceptional combination of professional expertise resulting in the first multifamily housing certified as both Passive House and Net Zero in Brooklyn. The three-unit condominium in the Prospect Heights neighborhood reached new levels for high-performance as the builders had to meet stringent insulation and efficiency standards. Further, Inc. opted for an insulated concrete form system due to superior quality as well as state-of-the-art R-9 Tilt and Turn windows. The team also installed Energy Recovery Ventilation and used ductless mini-split air source heat pump systems to efficiently heat and cool the units. The rigorous Passive House standards achieved for this project provide the residence with non-energy benefits as well, including daylighting, optimal indoor air quality, and an exceptionally quiet space, which is unique for that area. Additionally, the building gained extensive free publicity offsetting marketing costs and all three units sold at a higher price point than comparable sized conventional units. The project won five awards, clearly demonstrating that the transition to multifamily net zero residences is now an achievable reality.
For more than 45 years, Natale Builders has been providing clients with quality, custom built homes. After the downturn in the housing market in 2006, the business shifted their focus to building better insulated, and more efficient homes to set themselves apart, driving the message that customer satisfaction is a priority. Ten years later they are building green homes designed to achieve net zero energy performance. Since winters in Buffalo can be extreme, premium insulation and ultra-efficient heating systems are essential. Natale Builders uses a Superior Wall foundation insulation system, Aeroseal technology, and Ground Source Heat Pump equipped with a Desuperheater to achieve that goal. Natale uses continuous insulation combined with targeted caulking, and spray foam to reduce heat loss cost effectively. Adding a solar electric system to their already high performance home design provides their clients with piece of mind protection against future energy shocks. Investing in the right materials and properly marketing the benefits of high efficiency homes allows Natale to continue growing their client base pursing a net zero design.
Historic Gut Rehab - Paul and Joanne Coons
Home restoration provides an excellent opportunity to bring a residence to the next level—beyond its former glory. Owner-builders Paul and Joanne Coons intended on transforming an 1830s farmhouse into an exceptional, high-performance home. With the help of a qualified team, they put their plan into action. Keeping the 19th century frame, the team set to work implementing modern technology to achieve the net zero energy goal. The Coons’ decided on applying spray foam insulation, installing a metal “cool” roof, and using a Ground Source Heat Pump as part of their energy reduction measures. A solar hot water system and the use of ENERGY STAR® appliances throughout the home were also key components to reaching their objective. By researching and making informed decisions, the Coons’ could achieve a green and high performance home, such that today they have virtually no fuel bills and have even added an electric car charging station.