Homes tests Zero Energy House concept in Pleasanton
source: Katherine Conrad East Bay Business Times 2002.2.18
The first "zero
energy house[example 260kb pdf]" built by a commercial
builder in Northern
California is under construction in Livermore, where David Barclay
Homes is eager to discover how consumers will react to this greenest
The 3,070-square-foot house, with photovoltaic panels perched
on the roof
and special insulation poured into the foundation, will have every
environmentally friendly feature that Centex can incorporate. Recycled
wood products are being used in framing; windows, appliances and
heater are all energy efficient; the roof has been coated with a
reflect the sun's rays; fluorescent lights and fans will
be installed; and cellulose insulation has been blown into the walls.
Currently, the commercially built home is unique, but those involved
project hope its construction signals a trend toward "green"
Pleasanton is considering incorporating green guidelines into its
this spring, and other cities, including Dublin and Hayward, may
"Pleasanton is sort of a forerunner for midsize cities for
guidelines into code. There aren't that many cities nationwide that
this. Two examples are Boulder, Colo., and Austin, Texas,"
said Tricia Maier,
a Pleasanton planner.
The South Livermore house was chosen because Centex was eager
participate in the experiment to discover whether a house could
produce all its
own energy even in a climate where summer temperatures climb
degrees. Clearly, the house, one of the smaller homes in the development,
cost more to build and so will cost more to buy than other similar-sized
in Los Olivos. How much more has not been determined, but other
the 94-house development will range from $600,000 to more than $900,000.
The question is: Will buyers fork out more money for a home that
considerably less than its neighbors to heat and cool?
"This is a test to see if the consumer appreciates the benefits,"
president of Centex's Concord-based Northern California division.
As Barclay emphasized, if the consumer doesn't "buy in"
there is no motivation for
builders to build green.
"This is a prototype that will not be offered elsewhere until
we know it works,"
Barclay said, noting that the environmentally conscious Bay Area
is a good
place to test such a product.
Centex is the builder, but is not alone on the project. It has
partnered with the
Alameda County Solid Waste Management Authority, which has developed
green building guidelines recommended for use in all new home construction,
and the Davis Energy Group, a 21-year-old energy consulting and
firm that is providing $24,000 in federal and state grants as well
on how to build the home to meet the standards of a zero-net energy
Centex, which has a history of generous contributions to the Nature
Conservancy, was quick to jump on board when the opportunity to
prototype home was born out of California's energy crisis last year.
Springer, president of the Davis Energy Group, said only Centex
interest when he began looking for a home builder willing to install
company's energy-efficient heating and cooling system.
"It takes time, but changes happen. Centex is jumping out
ahead of the
standards," Springer said.
Springer understands the importance of marketability of the zero
homes, but he also knows that no one can buy such homes if they
available. He also is very mindful of the state's intent to equip
10 percent of all
new homes with zero energy systems by 2010.
"It's kind of a chicken-and-egg thing. If builders are not
out there putting solar
panels on roofs, then people aren't going to buy it," he said.
Wendy Sommer, project manager for the Alameda County Solid Waste
Management Authority, has been working with interested builders
than two years to develop green building guidelines for new home
and remodeling projects. She said the authority is close to producing
blueprint that assigns points for various green measures such as
dual-pane windows, that she hopes other cities can incorporate.
Other builders involved in developing the guidelines were Pulte
Silverwood Homes, Greenbriar Homes, Toll Brothers, Signature Properties
and Ponderosa Homes.
Trece Herder, project manager for Centex, built an energy-efficient
Arizona about 10 years ago that took a very long time to sell. She
for a very different ending to this story.
"The next step is to build more zero-net energy homes,"
said Herder. "We
want to take from this house what we've learned and potentially
communities that have energy efficiency and green features."
Reach Conrad at email@example.com or 925-598-1427.