The Department of Energy (DOE) is challenging builders to rethink how technology goes into a green, sustainable home without sacrificing design or budget.
Since 2013, the DOE’s Housing Innovation Award has recognized U.S. homebuilders dedicated to building homes that meet the standards of the department’s Zero Energy Ready program.
“We’ve been working with national laboratories and over a dozen teams of experts to develop the solutions for high-performance homes in the United States. This program brings those solutions to market under the name ‘Zero-Energy-Ready Homes,’” says Sam Rashkin, Housing Innovation Award leader.
TecHome Builder spoke with Rashkin and two winners from this year’s Housing Innovation Award—E2 Homes and Dwell Development—who all shared their perspectives on why builders should care about this unique program.
Recognizing Builders “Ready” for Action
The Zero Energy Ready program has existed since 2008 and lays out new standards for homebuilders to improve thermal performance, IAQ and energy savings.
Essentially, a DOE Zero Energy Ready home is so high-performing and energy efficient that a rooftop solar array can offset all or most of its annual energy consumption. The department added the word “ready” to recognize builders who are looking to go green but may not have the budget for a solar standard.
The Zero Energy program lays the groundwork, while the Innovation Award recognizes builders on the right track.
“The award is really this critical cog to creating a pipeline of great examples of where homes of the future are available today,” says Rashkin.
Breaking Down the Housing Innovation Award
The Housing Innovation Award is split into five categories and each category has several winners who are recognized. A grand winner is then selected from each category.
The five categories represented in the Innovation Awards are:
- Custom Homes for Buyers
- Custom Homes for Spec
- Affordable Housing
This year, 39 homebuilders from across the country were recognized.
Builder Perspective: E2 Homes
Among these honorees, in the Custom Homes for Buyers category, is luxury custom homebuilder E2 Homes.
“The award helps quantify what we do and how we’re different than other builders,” says Rob Smith of E2 Homes. “We’ve got a pretty good reputation as the go-to green builder in town already, but this award helps maintain that image and it also helps us stay at the forefront,” says Smith.
E2’s recognized project utilizes geothermal heating and cooling to meet the standards of the Zero Energy Home program. Smith says that awards like this help spread awareness and homebuyer appeal.
He also adds that the award has helped E2 Homes push boundaries and learn about the industry.
“I think there is a lot of potential for automation to help with efficiency and to really maximize the efficiency of a home,” says Smith, who sees a lot of possibilities in intelligent homes that can self-automate behavior with little to no interference from the homebuyer.
Builder Perspective: Dwell Development
In the Custom Homes for Spec category, custom homebuilder Dwell Development is the grand winner.
“It’s about building a reputation. It’s a part of awareness It’s about showing the DOE that these homes are all really good, but this particular home is off the charts,” says principle at Dwell Development, Anthony Maschmedt.
Dwell won for its Emerald Star home, which has received several other prominent national and regional awards. The home features rooftop solar, cutting-edge HVAC tech and a smart water management system that uses 70 percent less water than a traditional home.
“We looked at very innovative systems from a heating, cooling and energy efficient standpoint,” says Maschmedt.
The Emerald Star home represents Dwell’s third entry to the DOE’s award program. TecHome Builder will be touring this home and walking builders through its features in mid-November.
Encouraging Consumers to Buy Greener
In addition to the national award, each winning homebuilder is recognized with a page on the DOE website. And the winning projects are included in a customized case study that demonstrates how the winners compare to conventionally-built homes.
This webpage, known as the Tour of Zero, is used to teach homebuyers about the importance and availability of homes meeting strict energy efficiency standards in their region. From this site, homebuyers can see the home, take a virtual tour and compare performance metrics.
The Tour of Zero’s main purpose is to teach homebuyers that these homes are accessible, affordable and appealing.
“It breaks the myth that these homes cost more. It breaks the myth that it’s only for high-end housing. It breaks the myth that zero-energy homes are eclectic,” says Rashkin.
Homebuilders benefit by meeting the DOE’s advanced standards, because being recognized leads to national exposure and increased consumer interest.
“The Zero Energy Home program is a great way to manage new risks in the marketplace and a great way to differentiate yourself as a homebuilder, because you’ll be in the one percent of builders in the market,” says Rashkin.
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