Affordable Net-Zero Housing

November 23, 2015

In this guest post by Eliza Clark, Director of Sustainability at Andersen Corporation, she discusses the concept of net-zero housing and Andersen’s work on Eco Village, a net-zero community in River Falls, Wisconsin.

DSC_0109Net-zero housing, designed to consume the same amount of energy as they produce, are quickly becoming the new standard in sustainability among progressive, eco-conscious homeowners. There are some common misperceptions, though, about this type of home. Many believe net-zero is only within reach of homeowners with big budgets and that the houses must be futuristic in design to accommodate green technology.

The reality is much different. The costs associated with net-zero technologies have dropped noticeably, making it much more affordable than many believe. While some contemporary design elements can help a home meet a net-zero energy goal, most net-zero homes look and function like the average homes in their area. The end result is a house that uses very little energy and looks the way the homeowner wants it to look.

This argument is exemplified best at a pioneering development built by Habitat for Humanity in River Falls, Wisconsin. This nonprofit organization strives to make purchasing and owning a home more affordable for those who would most benefit from homeownership. In a first-of-its-kind endeavor, Eco Village was designed to prove that zero-energy neighborhoods could be affordable, beautiful, durable and comfortable. Moreover, because the homes have much lower operating costs, homeowners save money over the long-term, which can be used for health and quality of life expenses.

Andersen collaborated on this project with designers and other building products companies to prove that the right combination of materials and technologies doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive or perform to a lesser standard. The outcomes have shown how, by investing in a thoughtful, collaborative approach to home and neighborhood design, net-zero is achievable for homeowners at every price point.

With ongoing monitoring available through a smartphone app, Eco Village residents can compare their home’s energy performance with neighbors. And, when you visit the neighborhood, the home designs and landscaping don’t look that different from other new developments under construction.

What we’ve proven in one community is not an exception, but fast becoming a rule in home design and construction. It’s what innovation should do: introduce the possibility of a more sustainable future, over and over again, until it is not extraordinary. Until it is homeownership as usual.

By Eliza Clark, Andersen Windows

Eliza Clark is Director of Sustainability at Andersen Corporation

Photo Credit: Andersen Windows