The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) presented its 2017 Housing Innovation Awards to 24 of the nation's leading builders recently at the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance's High Performance Home Summit in Atlanta. Four Colorado builders were among the national honorees, one of them for homes being built in the Denver metro area.
Thrive Home Builders (Denver) was the Grand Winner in the Production Home category. The Custom Home category had no Colorado honorees. Thrive Home Builders (Lone Tree) was the Grand Winner in the Multi-Family category. Revive Properties (Fort Collins) was also honored in the Production and Multi-Family categories, and Mantell-Hecathorn Builders (Durango) was honored for Innovation in Custom Homes (Buyers), but not as the Grand Winner in that category.
These innovation awards are part of DOE’s “Zero Energy Ready Homes” program. According to Sam Rashkin, chief architect at DOE's Building Technologies Office, “Zero Energy Ready Homes are designed to provide a whole new level of home owner experience, including ultra-low utility bills, ensured comfort, comprehensive water protection, whole-house fresh air delivery, high-capture filtration, contaminant control, and enhanced durability.”
“These winners are leading a national movement to Zero Energy Ready Homes, providing better places for Americans to live, stronger communities, and a more economically and environmentally resilient nation,” said Rashkin.
The judges also selected homes for honorable mention in each category. Winners and honorable mention recipients will be featured on the DOE Tour of Zero, a virtual tour of Zero Energy Ready Homes across the country. A list of previous years’ winners (going back to 2013) can be seen online at https//energy.gov/eere/buildings/doe-tour-zero. Thrive Home Builders won this award in 2013, 2014, 2015 under the name New Town Builders and in two categories last year, as they did this year, under their new name.
From attending builder booths at various Realtor events, I have observed that builders active in the Denver market are highly competitive regarding the energy efficiency of their new homes. Energy efficiency is measured by the builders’ average HERS scores. HERS stands for Home Energy Rating System, where a score of 100 equals the energy efficiency of a home built to current code. Thus, a HERS score of 60 would signify that the home uses 40% less energy than one built only to code. The lower the HERS score, the more energy efficient a home is. Almost all builders active in the Denver market boast average HERS ratings of 70 or lower. Thrive Home Builders is building homes with HERS ratings under 10.
According to Susan Elovitz from Thrive, “All Thrive homes go beyond the Zero Energy Ready Homes program to also include Thrive’s premium performance 9½” walls filled with energy saving insulation, PV solar, LED Lighting, tankless water heaters and more. Indoor airPLUS certification is also standard, which means they meet rigorous EPA guidelines for improved indoor air quality, but again, it’s only a starting point for Thrive. Innovations in clean indoor air include active radon systems, advanced air filtration, continuous fresh air ventilation, corn-based carpeting and drywall that absorbs and breaks down formaldehyde to ensure that indoor air pollutants are reduced in the air you breathe.”
That’s impressive. Our agents were also impressed by Meritage Homes’ new subdivision at Richards Farm, where we got a pre-construction tour and could see that builder’s approach toward insulation.
Meritage showed us how they use sprayed foam insulation instead of fiberglass insulation in their walls. Closed cell foam is a far better insulator than batts made of fiberglass. Meritage is the only builder I know that conditions their attic, meaning that they insulate the ceiling of the attic — that is, the underside of the roof — instead of the floor of the attic. Other builders typically blow in cellulose insulation that rests on the floor of the attic The attic above the insulation is then ventilated with outside air. If there are heating ducts in an unconditioned attic, the warm air in those ducts could lose a lot of their heat, but if the attic is conditioned space, that doesn’t happen. If you have gone into your floor-insulated attic during the summer months you know how exceptionally hot it can get. By comparison, temperatures in an attic with an insulated ceiling are greatly reduced.