The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced the winners of the Housing Innovation Awards. Since 2013, the DOE has honored innovative builders constructing zero energy ready homes—homes that are “so efficient a renewable energy system can offset most or all annual energy consumption,” according to the agency. These properties are at least 40% to 50% more efficient than typical new homes.
“Thanks to the leadership and entrepreneurial spirit of these dedicated builders who have worked for years with DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Homes program, more than 10,000 of these homes have been built, bringing cleaner, healthier, more durable, and more sustainable dwellings to communities across the country,” Carolyn Snyder, deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said in a statement.
To qualify for a Housing Innovation Award, homes must meet the DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) certification requirements, with independent, third-party verification. Every ZERH-certified home also must have certifications from ENERGY STAR’s Residential New Construction Program for an efficient building envelope and the EPA’s Indoor airPLUS program for a healthy indoor environment. In addition, the homes have to demonstrate energy-saving building technologies and practices from the DOE Building America Research-to-Market Process.
Below are this year’s grand winners in each category, with their projects’ HERS scores and energy savings. Used to rate energy efficiency, a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) index score of 0 indicates a net zero home, which produces as much energy as it uses. In 2021, the average HERS score was 58.
The complete list of winners, featuring 26 homes in 18 states, can be found here.
Grand Winners of the DOE Housing Innovation Awards
ZeMod and Berecah Homes, Greenwood, Del.
Berecah Homes builds off-site, stick-built homes in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. An Energize Delaware program, ZeMod offers high-performance modular homes.
Project: Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility State Fair House, Lincoln, Del.
Size: 1,209 square feet; 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 floor
HERS (with a photovoltaic [PV] system): 1
Average monthly energy bill: $15
Annual savings (compared to typical new homes): $1,550
Garbett Homes, Salt Lake City
Founded in 1988, Garbett Homes builds about 130 to 150 homes per year and aims to reach an annual average of 300 homes.
Project: Sterling at Capitol Hill, Salt Lake City
Size: 1,857 square feet; 3 bed, 3 bath, 3 floors
HERS (without PV): 50
Average monthly energy bill: $65
Annual savings (compared to typical new homes): $630
Custom Homes for Buyers (less than 2,500 square feet)
TC Legend Homes, Bellingham, Wash.
TC Legend Homes, founded in 2006, has built about 30 zero energy ready homes in Washington state, and it plans to build at least half a dozen more next year.
Project: House in a Hollow, Bellingham, Wash.
Size: 1935 square feet; 3 bed, 2.5 bath, 2 floors
HERS (with PV): -23
Average monthly energy bill: -$20
Average annual savings (compared to typical new homes): $2,150
Custom Homes for Buyers (more than 2,500 square feet)
ZeroNetNow, Esopus, N.Y.
Since 2010, ZeroNetNow has completed about 45 zero energy ready homes, all in New York’s Hudson Valley region.
“The use of ICF (insulated concrete forms) is the biggest critical factor in my ability to consistently build the highest-performing homes,” says Anthony Aebi, founder, ZeroNetNow. The second and third top factors? Windows with a U-Factor of 0.17 or better. And well-sealed building envelopes—“helped greatly by the ICF,” Aebi says.
Project: Cooper Street Residence, New Paltz, N.Y.
Size: 3,718 square feet; 4 bed, 3.5 bath, 3 floors plus basement
HERS (with PV): -13
Average monthly energy bill: $20
Average annual savings (compared to typical new homes): $6,250
Custom Homes Built on Spec
SCC Group and Watershed, Fairhope, Ala.
SCC Group, a constructing and consulting firm, serves the Gulf Coast region, and Alabama-based Watershed is a green building, design, and consulting architecture firm.
Project: Mobile Bay Inspiration Home, Fairhope, Ala.
Size: 5,750 square feet; 4 bed, 5.5 bath, 2 floors plus basement
HERS (with PV): 20
Average monthly energy bill: $80
Average annual savings (compared to typical new homes): $5,200
Thrive Home Builders, Denver
In Colorado, Thrive Home Builders builds efficient, healthy, and high-performing homes—all of them zero energy ready. “The foundation of everything we do is the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready program. That’s the baseline upon which the other things we do are built,” says CEO Stephen Myers. Founded 30 years ago, Thrive Home Builders this year built about 80 homes.
Project: The Panacea Collection, Denver
Size: 5,004 square feet; 5 bed, 5.5 bath, 2 floors plus basement
HERS (with PV): 9
Average monthly energy bill: $30
Annual savings (compared to typical new homes): $6,150