A Look Back: Best of 2017 Green Building Trends
Looking back at 2017, it's clear high-performance home building is becoming more mainstream.
Of course, buildings codes are driving that trend to a large extent. But also, consumers are demanding better quality homes that don't cost as much to live in. Lower utility bills and maintenance costs can overcome any slight disadvantage in pricing.
It's clear homeowners are tired of homes with street-facing garages and large lots that separate neighbors, snapping up homes in developments that offer an alternative.
Here's a look back at some of the top trends of the past year, based on our conversations with builders, architects, manufacturers and other professionals in the industry.
Builders See the Value of Green
Forward-thinking homebuilders are seeing the commercial value of building high-performance homes as a key differentiator in the competitive market. While there may be a learning curve, the pay off is worth the pain.
At the 2017 Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) High Performance Home Summit in Atlanta, Kiere DeGrandchamp spoke about his company's transition to high-performance building, including building homes to the Zero Energy Ready Home program and National Green Building Standard.
Thrive Home Builders, an award-winning residential builder, began offering solar power on its homes to stand out in the competitive Denver market.
That desire launched the company's journey on the high-performance path. The company has won multiple times in the U.S. Department of Energy's Housing Innovation Awards for single and multi-family projects built to the Zero Energy Ready standard.
Home buyers are looking for better homes, not necessarily green or high-performance homes.
Whether they're Millennials or Baby Boomers, home buyers want homes that are comfortable, quiet, provide good indoor air quality and use less energy than older homes. But they may not consider themselves in the market for a green home.
At the 2017 Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) High-Performance Home Summit Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of the Shelton Group, a marketing and communications agency focused on the environmental arena, talked about her agency's research into home buyer attitudes.
Home Energy Ratings Rise
Backed by the RESNet HERS rating system, more homes are achieving some type of performance certification. These home rating systems are about quality control as much as they are about energy efficiency.
The Energy Rating Index is an optional compliance path that is part of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code, and will be part of the 2018 code as well. Builders in 15 states are using the voluntary ERI compliance path to meet 2015 IECC building code requirements.
In the first half of 2017, 106,867 homes were uploaded to the RESNET National Registry. During this time in 2016, there were 99,868 homes uploaded into the registry. This totals 6,999 more homes over the same time period in 2016.
Not only is there an increase in the number of HERS rated homes, but the energy performance of those homes built is increasing. The average HERS Index score for the first half of 2017 was 61 as compared to the average of 62 from this same time period in 2016.
Home Innovation Research Labs recently celebrated the 100,000th National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Green Certified home.
This milestone is significant not only because of the number of homes that have been certified but also for what it signifies for the state of the home building industry overall, according to Michael Luzier, Home Innovation president and CEO.
In 2016, more than 1,000 homes were certified under the Department of Energy's Zero Energy Ready Homes program. Many more new homes are planned to meet the standard for affordable high-performance homes.
The DOE promotes ZERH homes as "the home of the future," a home that lives, works, and lasts better. The homes are designed to be so energy efficient that a renewable energy system can offset all or most of their annual energy consumption.
Geothermal HVAC Growing
Geothermal heating and cooling is showing up in the spectrum of residential and commercial projects, from Habitat for Humanity homes to multi-million dollar super luxury homes to multifamily projects, as well as historic home retrofits. Even tech companies such as Google's parent Alphabet are investing in startups to improve the marketability of the systems.
Housing developments are trending toward higher density due to the cost of land and infrastructure. And buyers are willing to live in smaller homes on smaller lots without sacrificing amenities and build quality. That means neighbors are closer than ever, and more attention has to be paid to making it easier to live closer together.
After two years in X, Google's parent company Alphabet’s “moonshot factory”, Dandelion has set up as an independent company and has raised a $2 million seed round to kick-off its sales and operations for residential geothermal heating and cooling.
In the U.S., buildings account for 39% of all carbon emissions, and the majority of these emissions come from heating and cooling. Dandelion's solution will cost consumers around half of what geothermal installations have cost to date and be less expensive than fuel oil or propane heating.
A five-bedroom luxury home in Vail, Colorado, featuring geothermal heating and modernist design was listed at $34 million on the local real estate market. It's a record-setting price, eclipsing the previous record sale of $23 million in the same Vail Village neighborhood.
Acknowledged as a "Gore Creek Masterpiece," the 11,007 square-foot tri-level contemporary home features five bedrooms and ten baths on a .87 acre site abutting open space, Gore Creek and adjacent to a scenic trout pond, located equidistant from both the Lionshead and Vail Gondolas at 333 Beaver Dam Road.
Buyers Love New Urbanism/ Green Communities
New Urbanism design minimizes emphasis on cars and roads, so homes face green spaces and allowing vehicle access through rear alleys. Developers can reduce investment in infrastructure, and the market responds by paying higher prices for better homes in better neighborhoods.
Lew Oliver, an Atlanta-based urbanist, master planner, and designer, spoke at the 2017 EEBA High Performance Home Summit on Oct. 10 in Atlanta, about his experiences designing dozens of projects that focus on creating walkable neighborhoods that respect the land and incorporate well-designed, high performing homes. The designs are for buyers that crave intense urban and social experiences and they also crave natural experiences, he said.
Norton Commons, site of the Proud Green Home of Louisville, encompasses a 600-acre plan in northeast Louisville and has matured into one of the most successful New Urbanist communities in the South. The overall mission of Norton Commons is to provide its residents with More Life Per Square Foot by maximizing space and improving the overall comfort of the families who live, work, and play within the neighborhood.
Whisper Valley, a $2 billion sustainable community in East Austin developed by Taurus Investment Holdings was designed to attract buyers who want to lead a socially responsible lifestyle with affordable and energy efficient homes in a sustainable development. If you’re going to build a new house, Taurus officials say, why wouldn’t you want it to accomplish all of those objectives?
California Code Driving Change
Buildings codes in California call for all new homes to be net zero energy starting in 2020, and builders are preparing for that change now. The lessons learned in California will spill over into other markets as well.
This “futuristic home,” designed by Danielian Associates Architecture + Planning, is designed to serve as a learning tool as California prepares to meet 2020 mandates that require all new homes to be “Net Zero Energy,” meaning they must produce more energy than they consume. The ABC Green Home Project’s mission is simple: to design and build a series of Net-Zero-Energy homes that serve as examples of high-performance, energy-efficient homes, as California marches towards implementation of its Net-Zero regulations in 2020 all while giving back to the veteran community.
At the EEBA High Performance Home Summit on Oct. 10 in Atlanta, Brian Jamison, national purchasing director for mechanical and finish categories, reviewed Pulte’s Zero Net Energy and Connected Home initiatives.
In the Botanica in Brentwood development in Northern California, Pulte has built a demonstration Zero Net Energy Home to prepare for the 2020 California building code.
Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, walking distance from the Staples Center lies a brand new 263-unit luxury apartment complex called the Hanover Olympic.
Owned by Houston-based developer Hanover Company and designed by TCA Architects, this project is the first multi-unit apartment building in the City of Los Angeles that allows renters to receive direct savings on their electric bills from rooftop solar installations owned and operated by the developer.
Smart Home Technology Connecting with Buyers
Integration of technology into homes is getting easier, as Apple, Amazon, Google and others offer familiar interfaces to control lights, entertainment, HVAC and other aspects of home comfort. Builders are beginning to offer smart home options on new homes, making it easier to integrate and finance the technology.
Smart homes are becoming more mainstream as Brookfield Residential, a national homebuilder, is the first to offer Apple HomeKit technology as standard in new communities, officials of both companies announced.
Using Apple's Siri interface – or the Apple Home App on iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch – homeowners easily control HomeKit-connected devices so that they work smarter, said Foley. HomeKit's advantages extend to security and privacy, because communication from the iOS device and home accessories are encrypted, with all home data living privately on the device, not stored in the cloud. HomeKit-enabled lighting and smart thermostat also more efficiently manage home energy. And homeowners can group smart-home accessories by room, to create scenes such as "I'm Home," "Bedtime" or "Movie Night."
TRI Pointe Group, Inc. launched HomeSmart, a suite of state-of-the-art home technology and automation features that harness the power of Internet-connected devices to elevate the homeowner experience and also allow homeowners to conserve energy.
First introduced by Pardee Homes in 2001, the LivingSmart program is now integrated throughout all six premium builder brands that comprise the TRI Pointe Group.
Tiny Homes Go Large
Tiny homes are becoming a bigger part of the market, fueled by people looking to simplify their lifestyle and reduce their environmental impact.
Built indoors to International Residential Code (IRC) building standards, the Saltbox home is a "tiny" modular home constructed to be permanently affixed to the homeowner's property. The Clayton Built tiny home possesses all the latest in modern home design, both inside and out.
Instead of spending all your time, money and energy on some big mansion, you will be able to focus on the things that are really important for you. Most Americans spend 1/3 to 1/2 of their income toward putting a roof over their head, which translates to 15 years of working to pay for it.
Resilient Building Booms
Homes that can stand up to the worst that Mother Nature has to offer are becoming more popular as people fear floods, fires, and hurricanes.
West Palm Beach, Florida builder Green Dwellings has expanded its line of residential sustainable solar houses with two new models. Designed for tropical and subtropical environments, the Breeze 1 and Breeze 2 are constructed from 18-gauge steel and concrete. The structure, including impact-resistant windows, meets Miami/Dade’s most rigorous hurricane standards. Rated for Exposure D (i.e. near the ocean and other waterways) and 200 mph winds, these homes withstand far more than a “breeze.”
A program like FORTIFIED Home, created by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety® (IBHS), is one example of how the interests of homeowners, builders and insurance companies are coming together to adopt higher building standards to help demonstrate a home’s ability to withstand disasters like hurricanes or high-wind events.
Home buyers in coastal areas are discovering the benefits of ICF construction on their own and want to work with contractors who can help them build their dream home.
Americans in places like Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, New Jersey, as well as inland state prone to tornadoes, want to be prepared for the next time a major storm strikes. That's why smart builders and buyers in hurricane- and tornado-prone areas are increasingly turning to concrete structural walls to stand up to fierce storms that would otherwise level a wood-frame home.
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