Washington, D.C. area builder Brookfield Residential is going into the lab, but first they must build the lab itself.
Brookfield has designed and built a concept home to test energy-efficient products and building materials, as well as architectural strategies. The goal is to figure out which products and ideas work, are cost-effective and can be brought to the mass market. They call it the PureBlue Home.
It’s an idea based on one the automotive industry has used for decades: The concept car, where new ideas are tested out, shown off and often integrated into the latest model, according to Gregg Hughes, vice president of sales and marketing at Brookfield DC.
“I was watching the Super Bowl, and there was this commercial with this really cool car with slide-up doors. It’s not necessarily an attainable [car] for the masses, but then they showed a 3 Series BMW and showed how the components and … innovations in the concept car that initially got us so excited trickle down into a car that was a little more mainstream,” Hughes says.
Building a Concept Home
The energy-efficient concept home features technology and structural components that bring the HERS index to minus-1. The house features a new floorplan, low-VOC and recycled building materials, structural insulated panels, Energy Star appliances, as well as technologies Brookfield has and hasn’t used before in the D.C. area such as:
• 39 255kW rooftop solar panels from SolarCity that can produce 9.945kW
• graywater recycling
• Voltex hybrid water heater
• dual-flush toilets
• water-saving faucets by Delta
• drip irrigation
• rainwater storage tanks
• LED light fixtures
The four-bedroom home with three-and-a-half baths is exceptionally water-efficient. It has dual-flush (and touchless) toilets and water-saving Delta faucets that can be stopped by a touch to any part of the handle or faucet and shut off automatically after four minutes.
Related: Anatomy of a NetZero Home
Graywater from the bathroom sinks, showers and dishwasher is filtered and collected in nine 50-gallon Rainwater Hog storage tanks hidden under the back deck. The tanks also collect rainwater from the home’s roof. Water in the tanks is used to irrigate the home’s lawn and gardens.
It’s also tightly sealed with triple-glazed windows, upgraded insulation and duct sealing. The HVAC systems partially rely on solar gain, which is maximized by the home’s orientation on the site and the design of the roofline. The home is heated with a gas furnace, and an energy recovery ventilator maintains indoor air quality in the home. The HVAC systems are controlled by an Infinity system by Carrier that customizes temperature, humidity, air quality and ventilation from a single device.
“It’s a much smaller unit than you would typically see in a house this size based on the tightness of the home and the energy efficiency that we’re creating there,” Hughes says.
Some other technologies that Brookfield considered but decided against were geothermal heating and cooling, solar hot water heater, tankless water heater, and boiler system for radiant heat.
While Brookfield Residential offers energy-efficient options including solar panels and geothermal heating under its Blue label, the PureBlue homes brings energy efficiency to a new level.
Check out the PureBlue Features
The PureBlue concept home is located on the corner of a cul-de-sac in Brookfield’s Arvendale neighborhood, in Bristow, Va. The neighborhood will include 300 single-family homes when complete.
The energy-efficient home is being compared to four other model homes in the neighborhood that get the same type of usage under similar conditions. “We can compare the homes and see what’s working well and what isn’t,” Hughes says.
The net meter was installed by Brookfield’s electrical supplier in late April and the system turned on that week. Brookfield started collecting data from Solar City’s web-based monitoring system in the first week of May.
Who Wants an Energy-Efficient Home?
Brookfield has been selling energy-efficient options for several years, everything from solar panels to geothermal systems. “They’re not inexpensive up front, but they definitely have a payoff in the future,” Hughes says.
The type of buyer who wants green and efficient homes in Hughes’ market may surprise some people. While Millennial buyers express interest in green technology, they’re not the ones buying it, Hughes says, and it comes down to cost.
“They may have $10,000 dollars to spend on options and upgrades in a home, and they may say, ‘Well, I think those energy-efficient options are really great and I think it’s very important, but I may spend that money on granite countertops and really fancy cool cabinets.’ That’s kind of been the response from the Millennials,” Hughes says.
Baby Boomers, on the other end of the generation spectrum, have shown interest, and the money, to buy Brookfields’ green options.
“Within the purchased options we’re currently offering, I’d say it was more of the move-up buyer or the Boomers in some of our active adult communities,” Hughes says. “The Millennials are very interested in all the different options, but to this point we have not sold as many to that particular demographic.”
Tour the PureBlue Home
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Edited May 5, 2015