Net-Zero Construction is Surprisingly Affordable

Courtesy of The Colorado Sun — Image source Thrive Home Builders

You might think that the cost to build a zero-energy (ZE) or zero-energy ready home (ZERH) is much higher than the cost of traditional building.  But an exciting report by the Rocky Mountain Institute reveals that that simply isn’t true.  Across the country, building to zero-energy standards only costs from one to eight percent more up-front than simply building to code.

https://rmi.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Incremental-cost-chart.jpg
Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Institute

“This often gets politicized. … But the point is these types of homes have many benefits that appeal to many people. Our report is helping people who don’t realize how feasible this is.”

— Jacob Corvidae, principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute

And while zero-energy homes currently make up only a tiny percent of available housing in the U.S. and Canada, the Net Zero Energy Coalition reports that the trend is growing. Their 2018 inventory, which counts zero-energy single and multi-family homes (completed, in construction or in design), found only 13,960 units at the end of 2017.  By the end of 2018, though, that number had grown to 22,146, an increase of 59 percent!

https://teamzero.org/resources/zero-energy-inventory/
Chart from teamzero.org

This story from the Colorado Sun includes some of the details that make zero-energy construction feasible.  Technology is constantly improving not only for home features (like combination heating, cooling and water heating systems), but also for the construction process itself.  Some higher-tech materials may cost more but shorten construction time overall, helping to keep costs under control.  Nathan Kahre of Thrive Home Builders notes that better training to get construction crews up to speed on new technology is also key to successful net-zero projects.

“Affordable housing has essentially evaporated in America. Traditional site-built, stick-built housing is broken. It doesn’t work anymore. What does work is… Smaller footprints, high quality and net zero.”

— Sprout Tiny Homes CEO Rod Stambaugh

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