Now that Zero Net Energy (ZNE) is the default for all new residential homes, we’re going to see a tremendous change in the way houses are built in California. While ZNE is a positive development for the environment and the reliability of our electric grid, not all builders will have the experience to craft homes that will excel 2020 Solar Mandate.
To understand this a bit better, let’s look at two families that represent clients we see at Clarum: the Parkers and the Joneses.
Matt Parker is a busy guy. As a lead partner in his private equity firm, he’s always on the go and doesn’t have time to dive deep into the nuance high-performance home building. But there’s one thing Matt does know – he wants a home that’s a retreat from his high-tempo career. This, of course, includes features he’s grown to expect, like a heated soaking tub and a gas tankless water heater.
Matt’s wife, Sarah, has built a successful career as an attorney and leads her firm’s business practice. Her firm also handles environmental cases, and she spends a lot of time thinking about indoor air quality and the health of her two young children. She’s excited about solar, but it’s part of a larger picture for her. Sarah’s an accomplished cook and wants the familiarity of a gas range as well as the tub Matt insists on.
The Joneses share many of the Parkers’ desires for a new home: elegant design, ease-of-maintenance, and features that promote their family’s health and well-being. However, where these families differ is that the Joneses are dedicated to eliminating their carbon footprint. Both Bob and Susan drive electric cars and they reduce the impact of their air travel with a carbon-offset program. The Joneses know their next home will be 100% free of fossil fuels. In a word, they’re dedicated.
Most builders will be able to find a way to meet the 2020 Mandate for the both the Parkers’ and Joneses’ new homes. With enough solar panels, a builder can offset the energy use of the gas stove, water heater, and soaking tub Matt and Sarah are looking for. For the Joneses, the job is even easier: an electric water heater and electric stove-top means no more fossil fuels. Success, right?
By contrast, if the Parkers and Joneses were to work with an experienced builder, like Clarum, we’d ask the right questions to understand the needs for their growing family. Our process would uncover that the health of the indoor air is critically important, and they’d see how every aspect of a Clarum home (from materials choice to air circulation) is designed to reduce energy AND provide a healthier living space. We’d introduce the Joneses to exciting, fossil-fuel-free technologies like induction stoves and heat-pump water heaters.
But the real story of success would be seen on the roof of both of these homes. While a traditional builder would simply “throw panels at the problem” of energy demand, a high-performance builder will site the building to take maximum advantage of solar gain. A passive-inspired house will be significantly tighter than a traditional home, further reducing the energy loads for heating and cooling. And, finally, because we’ve been working with solar technology for more than 20 years, we’d know which recommendations would offer the best tradeoffs between cost and performance. In the end, the Clarum home would do more with fewer panels, while also keeping both families breathing healthy, clean air.
At the end of the day, every family will have different needs. And, with the 2020 Mandate, builders of all stripes will need to up their game. But, not every builder will know the right way to both meet the energy code requirements and the goals of homeowners. At Clarum, we’ve been building high-performance long enough to know how to do more than meet code – we can help you reduce your energy demands while also building the dream home you’ve always wanted.
Want to learn more about how Clarum can help you build the sustainable home of your dreams? Give us a call at 650.322.7069