Homebuyers across the country are looking for definitive ways to achieve extreme efficiency. While some want energy efficiency, others are setting their sights on net zero energy homes. This trend isn’t limited to areas within the U.S. and Canada that are mandating or suggesting net zero energy building. It’s also for those who want a stable energy bill and want to reduce their carbon footprint and emphasize sustainable living.
Before diving into how to achieve a net zero energy building, let’s discuss what it means.
You may have heard the terms eco-friendly, green building and sustainable building––net zero energy homes go beyond these things to extreme efficiency.
The U.S. Department of Energy publishes resources for net zero-ready homes and they provide the easiest-to-understand definition for net zero energy building: a home or building that is able to produce the same amount of energy as it consumes.
Essentially, energy-in equals energy-out.
Boost the overall green nature of your net zero energy building by sourcing sustainable building materials. Sustainable building is an approach to construction that prioritizes resource efficiency and reduces the construction's impact on the environment.
“Net zero energy building and sustainable construction all merge from a scientific standpoint,” says Mark LaLiberte, President of Construction Instruction. "All terms fit under the same umbrella. The idea is to build an efficient home that's healthy, safe, durable and comfortable."
LaLiberte explains that net zero energy construction works to boost the efficiency of each attribute. "For example, having a healthy home means maximizing the efficiency of ventilation. Sustainability is using stone quarried from down the road instead of Turkey or Pakistan."
Choosing LP Building Solutions is an excellent way to embrace sustainability in your clients' homes. The company-wide environmental stewardship policy meets the strictest standards in the management and conservation of public and private forestlands as well as the sustainable manufacturing of our engineered wood products.
So how do you achieve a net zero energy build? We caught up with several experts to learn how they help their clients achieve net zero energy residential building.
“We start by asking our clients questions about how they live,” explains Brad Leavitt, president of A Finer Touch Construction. "We want to understand everything we can, how they live inside the home, where their family gathers at night, whether they use the outdoors as a living space. We want to create a home that they'll love and makes them feel comfortable."
Detailed questions help Leavitt understand client priorities. "Homeowners agree they want good ventilation, but when I learn, for example, their son has asthma and the wife has allergies, it underscores the importance of installing an extremely efficient ventilation system."
There is an option to build a net zero-ready energy home--which means it's plumbed to add solar at a later date. "We can't change insulation, windows or cladding--I'm building a sound and durable structure upfront--but some areas can be modified later, as long as it's planned upfront," Leavitt adds.
"The next step is taking a team of architects, engineers and contractors to bid the details. It involves good consultants like Mark LaLiberte who understand building science," says Leavitt. "Like all new ideas, there is a learning curve for everything."
Social media is also accelerating net zero energy residential building trends because it's helping educate homeowners. "Consumers are doing their own research and have discovered Mark's YouTube educational seminars,” says Leavitt. “We do a lot of social media on Instagram so I have people say, ‘I saw your piece on ICF construction and have a question.’”
“I even have one client who wants to meet Mark while he’s in town,” joked Leavitt.
Choosing Building Materials for a Successful Net Zero Energy Build
Leavitt is currently building a net zero energy residential home in the Phoenix area with LP Structural Solutions products, including LP® FlameBlock® Fire-Rated Sheathing––because it’s in a woodland fire area––as well as LP® TechShield® Radiant Barrier and LP WeatherLogic® Air & Water Barrier.
"When homes are built in hot climates like Arizona, attic temperatures can exceed 140 degrees," says Neil Freidberg, Building Science Manager at LP Building Solutions. "The insulation is the barrier between 75-degree conditioned air and hot attic temperatures. LP TechShield panels help reduce ambient heat, which helps the attic insulation perform more efficiently and reduce temperatures in the attic from as high as 140 degrees down to 90 to 120 degrees."
While LP WeatherLogic panels offer a continuous air and water barrier while allowing water vapor to escape, they also provide Structural I sheathing for greater structural capacity. "Being a Structural I product, LP WeatherLogic sheathing gives you a good, sound structure so it can maintain the efficiency for which it was designed," says Friedberg. Seams are a vulnerable area for conditioned air to escape and LP WeatherLogic helps by taping up these areas.
Additionally, having a tighter building envelope reduces the chances of having a "leaky house." "Properly installed, LP WeatherLogic sheathing can help assign a lower ACH50 and potentially reduce HVAC loads," says Friedberg.
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