California's Net Zero Mandate Is Shaking Up the Home Building Industry

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
California's Net Zero Mandate Is Shaking Up the Home Building Industry

Once again, California is leading the way for the nation.

Like the state has done before with air pollution regulations, alternative fuels and many eco-friendly aspects of living, California's zero-net energy mandate is changing the way homes are built and marketed.

Under the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, the state has ambitious goals for the development of zero net energy buildings. These include:

  • All new residential construction will be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020.
  • All new commercial construction will be ZNE by 2030
  • 50% of commercial buildings will be retrofit to ZNE by 2030
  • 50% of new major renovations of state buildings will be ZNE by 2025, and 100% by 2025

While there's common wisdom that high-performance homes cost more, builders in California are sharpening their pencils to meet the standard as cost-effectively as possible.

Here's a look at some of the projects that are leading the way to build better homes, not just in California but hopefully across the nation.

ABC Green Home 3.0 Prepares for California's Net Zero Energy Regulations

The third iteration of The ABC (Affordable, Buildable, Certifiable) Green Home was designed by Danielian Associates Architecture + Planning, 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.

Production builder uses green demonstration homes for R&D

KB Homes, one of the largest homebuilders in the United States, uses its high-performance demonstration homes as research and development opportunities to refine the building practices and technologies that find their way into its production homes.

In  2014, KB Home launched its latest demonstration home, the Double ZeroHouse 3.0 in the Fiora at Blackstone Development in El Dorado Hills, California. It was the first net-zero KB home with renewable energy generation and storage capabilities provided by SunPower; high-tech and energy-efficient products from Ford's MyEnergi Lifestyle initiative; and a fully-integrated, network-connected home experience with resource-efficient, state-of-the-art appliances from Whirlpool Corporation.

The Double ZeroHouse 3.0 was designed to achieve net-zero energy usage — the result of a whole-home approach to first reduce the energy load of the home by incorporating advanced features and systems like increased insulation; upgraded HVAC units; high-performance windows; and LED lighting.

The KB home earns its ‘Double' ZeroHouse title through its dual emphasis on water as well as energy efficiency. 

Mass-market builder Pulte developing zero net energy home prototype

To prepare to meet tough building codes, PulteGroup Inc. is producing a zero net energy (ZNE) home prototype in Northern California.

Pulte says it is the largest builder to participate in a pilot aimed at building new homes to achieve maximum energy efficiency and utility grid load reduction.

“The Pulte ZNE prototype will help guide and create best practices for the Company in building more energy efficient new homes in California and, ultimately, across the nation,” said Ryan Marshall, president of PulteGroup. “Our goal for this prototype is to help define the most efficient path to building zero net energy homes that effectively balance constructability, cost and quality.”

The Pulte ZNE home prototype embraces California’s long-term zero net energy goals by leveraging advanced design, construction and on-site renewable energy solutions. The home’s design combines near airtight building methods, highly efficient insulation, HVAC, lighting technologies and more, with on-site solar energy production to offset the home’s energy consumption.

First Net Zero Energy Apartments Go Live in Los Angeles

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.

It is also the first project in Los Angeles where people can rent "eco-green" units designed to be highly sustainable, energy efficient, and net zero energy by producing enough solar power to meet each tenant's annual electricity needs.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Zero Energy Ready Home certification program is helping disseminate the knowledge to build to this standard other states, so builders don't have to reinvent the wheel.

"The goal is to have the have the house built, so it is zero energy ready with a solar-ready construction set of details that are low cost, no cost and effectively avoid disruption and cost penalties in the future for adding a solar system," said Sam Rashkin, chief architect with the Building Technologies Office, U.S. Department of Energy.

Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.

wwwView Gary Wollenhaupt's profile on LinkedIn

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