From San Francisco to Brooklyn: Why the Mission Is Building the Greenest Homes Ever

Barbara Chaloff-Nevling, public affairs manager of Lowe’s Neighborhood Labs, a group of dedicated consultants in the building industry that aims to help implement important policies, said construction companies were investing in low-energy and net-zero-energy developments. “As we continue to hear about rising temperatures, rising sea levels, water scarcity and all of the other changes that are happening in our environment, it’s natural that the attention turn to how to mitigate these threats,” she said. That’s why many builders, especially in the Bay Area, where weather conditions are the most extreme in the country, are looking to make their new homes as safe and energy efficient as possible.

What does this mean in practice? Under what conditions could someone afford a building that is net-zero-energy? A key criterion is making sure that the heating, air conditioning and electricity used throughout the property is as efficient as possible. Developers must also commit to setting aside approximately 10 percent of the entire home’s square footage for infrastructure — renewable power, water purification and so on — which adds significantly to the overall cost of a property. Yet it’s not always cost-effective for developers to consider these extra costs; few customers have the money on hand. What they can do, then, is strive to save as much energy as possible by using mostly energy-efficient construction materials, whether that’s wooden materials for walls or concrete for roofing. The whole point of net-zero-energy homes is to build as densely as possible to maximize heat-resistance and to build efficiently — this is, after all, how world-record temperature increases will affect our planet. That means that builders and homeowners must make do with a lot of modern electronics — solar panels, for example — that have almost no impact on the house itself, or cut down on natural light to save money and energy. “Building your home with the environment in mind and outfitting the home with such modern, efficient technology is the right way to keep the heat in your home as low as possible,” Chaloff-Nevling said.

Every experience has its own challenges. Preconstruction is stressful for the builder and the developer because they can’t rely on data provided by construction professionals. Of course, developers have to weigh how much information they are willing to supply to retain their industry credibility and customers’ trust. But as Mr. Congel points out, in these cases, trust is critical, because investing in a home that is net-zero-energy makes it an environmental investment. In the long run, it can make a difference.

See: Developing a “New York,” a feature exploring the storm-proofing opportunities to be had for the city in time for another major storm.

Read the full story at the Smart Cities site.

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