LEED, Shmeed, a net-zero energy home meets a long list of certifications

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
LEED, Shmeed, a net-zero energy home meets a long list of certifications

When Marc Rutenberg set out to build a net-zero demonstration, the goal was to meet the highest level of as many green building programs as he could. The Castaway III model home shows that he passed his goal with ease.

The 4,552 square-foot Mediterranean-style home in near Tampa, Fla., not only meets LEED Platinum, it also meets the highest levels of other building standards:

  • USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum
  • National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Emerald
  • Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) Platinum
  • Energy Star with IndoorAir Plus
  • Home Energy Rating Scale (HERS) Index -16
  • Florida Water Star
  • Florida-Friendly Landscaping Gold

The home, known as Zero Energy America 1, was recently completed and is the first of four houses comprising Rutenberg’s ambitious Zero Energy America project in the Tampa Bay area, which draws on the company’s luxury building expertise to create high-end homes classified as net-zero energy.

See a slideshow of the Zero Energy America model home.

"It didn't matter what certification we approached, we didn't set lofty goals for the purpose of being lofty, we knew that our goal was to reach to the highest level of certification in any certifying body that was relevant to the project," Rutenberg said.

Rutenberg's daughter, Ashley, was the project LEED AP and conducted groundbreaking research by comparing the various programs and creating a one-of-a-kind guide illustrating how the programs compared and contrasted.

"The ultimate interests of the programs are all held on common, the broad objectives are all held in common, but the pathways to get there are very different," Rutenberg said.

It's the first home the company has built for the purposes of demonstration rather than presentation, with the goal of educating consumers and the building industry about green building, Rutenberg said. The goal was to make an extraordinary house look ordinary, as least as ordinary as a $1.6 million home can look.

"If you drove through the neighborhood and I told you to find the net-zero house, you couldn't find it," Rutenberg said. "It looks like all the other houses and it's supposed to."

Watch a video on the Zero Energy America home.

Beneath the "ordinary" exterior, the home incorporates a number of innovative features, including the home’s walls made of Xella’s Hebel Aerated Autoclaved Concrete block. The product, normally found in found in industrial and commercial buildings offers fire resistance, durability and energy efficiency. However the drawback was the steep learning curve as there were no contractors with experience in the material. The factory sent trainers to the site for three days to bring everyone up to speed.

Xella’s Hebel Aerated Autoclaved Concrete has a higher thermal resistance than conventional concrete block, making it an integral component of this net-zero energy home. It had an R-value of 12.5 compared to block that R-value of about 1.

On the roof, 60 LG solar panels facing south and west generate enough electricity to turn the electric meter backward.

To further fortify the building envelope, the home uses integrated PGT Energy Star-rated windows and French doors. Marc Rutenberg called the Solarban 60 window and door glazing in the house “ENERGY STAR on steroids.”

Rutenberg has already started on the second home in the series, and is also launching a 20-home development of smaller net-zero homes, the Zero Energy America Village. The project will feature 1,600- to 1,800-square-foot homes with a target price of $250,000.

Rutenberg said the cost difference between building to his net-zero level and a baseline code compliant home was about $120,000, with about $75,000 of that directly related to the solar PV system. With the tax credits from the solar system and other eligible products and the lower utility bills, the homeowner will save money on a monthly basis compared to a standard home. That's a current rates; given the historic electric rate increases of 3 percent to 4 percent a year, the savings will only get bigger.

Additional features of the home include:

  • An Eaton Electric Vehicle Charger to power the car; a 2013 Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid is featured in the garage
  • A foundation made of low-carbon footprint cement by Blue World Crete
  • Lafarge synthetic gypsum drywall (recycled rather than mined)
  • Goodwin's wood treatments recovered from old river logs
  • Kohler high-efficiency faucets, toilets and fixtures
  • Schluter shower systems for mildew-free showers
  • Oceanside Glasstile made from recycled glass
  • Mohawk Portico carpet made from recycled plastic bottles
  • Boral clay roofing and pavers
  • A Hunter irrigation system that senses environmental conditions and adjusts the amount of water output accordingly
  • PGT Energy Star windows
  • Panasonic vent systems designed to keep the air healthy
  • Countertops made from concrete and recycled materials
  • Linear efficient and quiet garage door openers
  • Teragren bamboo floors, a rapidly renewable resource

Read more about Great Green Homes.

Photos courtesy Marc Rutenberg Homes


Topics: Certification / LEED, GREAT GREEN HOMES, Home Design & Plans, Insulated Concrete Forms - ICF

Companies: Panasonic High Performance Ventilation Solutions, PGT Industries Inc, Icynene Inc.



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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