Pulte Presents Green Building Research at EEBA Summit

Pulte Presents Green Building Research at EEBA Summit

Rendering of Pulte's Zero Net Energy home.

There's lots of room for homebuilders to adopt new techniques and products to deliver a better product for consumers.

That's the message that Ryan Marshall, CEO of PulteGroup, delivered during the keynote address to the EEBA High Performance Home Summit on Oct. 10 in Atlanta.

Ryan Marshall

Marshall noted that the residential new building market is still recovering from the recession. The industry is still below the 50-year average of 650,000 new homes annually, he noted.

As CEO of the parent corporation of Pulte Homes, Marshall noted that overall land availability remains tight as developers face problems in getting regulatory permission to develop new land.

PulteGroup is looking for ways to build homes that are more resource efficient and also meet consumers' changing desires.

"Our opportunity and challenge is to build homes in a different way than we do today... we can develop a manufacturing mindset and have greater precision and less waste," he said.

Pulte is actively pursuing opportunities to make homes smarter and more energy efficient through technology.

However, challenges remain including guessing which technology survives, bundling the right package for the right cost, and considering future maintenance and exposure to liability, Marshall said.

The company has created new construction standards and the Pulte Quality Index, which is applied throughout the organization. They also conduct homeowner surveys at the time of home closure, and after one year, to consistently monitor performance. Quality of construction has become a competitive factor for the company.

"We have found that higher build costs can be offset with lower service and warranty expense," Marshall said.

The keynote included a look at two PulteGroup research initiatives to learn more about wall systems and net-zero home building.

Advanced Wall Systems

Panelized wall systems speed up construction time, reduce waste, and result in a tight building envelope. In conjunction with Covestro, Pulte has developed the PUReWall system, a panelized wall that is designed for use in residential construction.

Its design replaces traditional exterior sheathing and replaces it with a combination of polyisocyanurate (polyiso) continuous insulation on the exterior and spray polyurethane foam (SPF) in the wall cavity, both of which are installed at a panelization facility.

The wall was developed to overcome shortcomings in current wall construction technology that won't meet future build codes, according to Chuck Chippero, national director of strategic sourcing.

"PUReWall meets thermal performance requirements in all climate zones, and allows for high quality building consistence in an uncontrolled field environment," Chippero said.

Prototyping a Zero Net Energy home

Pulte built a demonstration Zero Net Energy Home to prepare for the 2020 California building code, which  will require every new home to produce as much energy as they consume.

In the Botanica in Brentwood development in Northern California, the company designed and built a house in a production environment with a build time similar to the typical production cycle.

Brian Jamison, national purchasing director for mechanical and finish categories, leads Pulte’s Zero Net Energy and Connected Home initiatives.

"We started with the philosophy of simplicity to effect as few trades as possible to minimize complexity," Jamison said. "We wanted to ensure we could deliver quality sustainability results to the homebuyers."

The home was laid out to face south not only maximum solar gain, but also show off the solar array for potential buyers.

"The home had to blend in with the rest of the neigbhorhood, which also feature solar arrays," Jamison said.

The home was built to comply with the 2016 California Energy Code and projected code improvements through 2020. The goal was to build a home didn't require any additional homeowner maintenance.

"We wanted it to live like a typical home," Jamison said.

High Performance Home Features

  • Guided by the California Energy Code 2016 to 2020
  • Owens Corning cathedral R38 attic insulation- Attic conditioned space
  • All Energy Star Appliances including Refrigerator and Front Load W&D
  • On Demand Tankless Water Heater
  • Seer 19 Heat Pump
  • Fresh Air Induction
  • MERV 16 air filtration
  • Smart Thermostat
  • All LED lighting
  • Solar
  • Energy monitoring

The home is in its first year of energy monitoring but early results are positive, Jamison said.

These development projects are part of Pulte's strategy of preparing for the future of the housing market.

"While there are numerous opportunities to improve construction and home efficiency, builders must demonstrate a clear value to the consumer wherein we balance opportunity to enhance home performance with buyer willingness to pay," Marshall said.

Read more about sustainable building trends.


Topics: Building Green, Connected Homes / Smart Homes, Energy Audits, Energy Star, Going Green, Home Design & Plans, Solar Power, Sustainability Trends & Statistics, Sustainable Communities, Thermal Envelope

Companies: Covestro, EEBA

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