Deltec Net Zero Homes: They’re Not Just a Pretty Face

Deltec Homes of Asheville, North Carolina has a new line of net zero homes, and Deltec President Steve Linton – a LEED-accredited professional – is convinced that these highly energy-efficient structures will set the cost and energy footprint standard for years to come.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a benchmark for “green” home building designed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides certification for truly environmentally friendly homes (and commercial buildings, too) in four categories: Platinum, Gold, Silver and LEED Certified.

Linton’s confidence is well placed. The Renew Collection introduces six models in a range of styles to suit every taste, whether you are Saks Fifth Avenue or Venice Beach, California. Beyond that, these homes not only cut energy an amazing two-thirds compared to standard new homes, but they do so at prices that beat out most of the competition – including energy-efficient models – by a stunning 30 percent.

Nor are the savings a sales pitch. Deltech Homes, in business for over 45 years providing the paradigm in hurricane-resistant, sustainable panelized homes, has melded the two most costly components of home-building, materials and square footage, and come up with what Linton describes as “…an incredibly sustainable home”, and all without sacrificing on comfort and livability.

But that’s just for starters. As Linton goes on to explain, building a home right the first time (which is the secret behind panelized, or prefabricated, homes) based on hours of intensive energy-efficiency research allows Deltech customers to turn the residential home energy paradigm on its head. In effect, a net zero home with inclusive “green” energy from solar photovoltaic and solar thermal hot water heat, “buys all its energy upfront!”

This results in future cost savings that can’t even be fully appreciated as the globe warms and fossil-fuel energy is inextricably linked with pollution and climate change.  In fact, the nation’s current energy mix is almost 70 percent fossil fuels, a profile that is not likely to change significantly as cleaner-burning natural gas replaces coal.

Because Linton and his team have already done the heavy lifting in terms of energy efficiency, by identifying advanced materials and technological fixes that improve on what was already a well-insulated model, those considering the Renew Collection will find air-tight, highly insulated standard and “round” homes which rely on such innovations as passive solar, passive lighting and “climate modeling”, which fits a home into its environment rather than vice versa, as has been the practice until now.

When Deltech says highly insulated, what it really means is R-values more than twice as efficient as today’s code requirements. And if that isn’t enough, in very cold climates models also offer 10-inch thick double-stud walls, one inch of exterior foam insulation, an AirBlock gasket system – essentially a layer of insulative foam used to seal the exterior wall sheathing to the frame, insulated double headers over doors and windows, and triple-pane thermally efficient windows. The total package adds a mere $8,000 in cold climates – less than the cost of a decent bath remodel.

So what happens to square footage when a home builder aims for the top in energy efficiency?

Nothing. As Linton notes, the U.S. has gone through more than a decade of larger and larger single-family homes. The trend, and the sizes, diminished during the recent recession but immediately began growing again when it was technically over.

“I think this is an unsustainable path,” Linton says, stressing the need to find the “sweet spot” between square footage and creature comforts.

In other words, owners want at least two baths, but these utilitarian spaces don’t always have to accommodate the entire Carolina Panther’s lineup. In fact, given a potential future water crisis in the U.S., a second bath with only a shower stall instead of a tub makes perfect sense. A bath with a combination commode and sink makes even more, particularly if the two share a common wall so that user’s don’t have to lean over the bowl to get to the basin.

For those who like eclectic design, Deltec’s flagship model round home makes the most sense in terms of energy efficiency, cost and (perhaps most important, at least to the building contractor) manufacturing accuracy.

Round homes, according to Linton, have at least 15-percent less surface area exposed to the outdoors, which reduces the need for insulation and provides a design that flows from one area to another. More important, the rounded shape – the historic model for Native American tribes as well as the nomads of Central Asia (i.e., Mongolia, where they are called yurts) – is inherently more environmentally friendly, as opposed to the sharp edges in modern homes, which reflect the Western tendency to put everything inside boxes, virtually speaking.

“A well designed home reduces both size and energy use,” Linton concludes, voicing an almost self-evident truth that will hopefully short-circuit the trend toward ever larger single-family homes.

As for panelized homes, which have for decades operated under a dark cloud of “pre-fab” (a category that includes manufactured homes, or “trailers”), environmentalists can only hope that this stigma is also put to bed sooner rather than later. The most energy- and cost-efficient home building paradigm is in a factory, where AutoCAD design insures accuracy down to the centimeter.

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