Insights from Successful Net-Zero Builders

first_imgThe number of net-zero energy (NZE) homes in the U.S. is growing at an exciting rate — it has grown by 33% from 2015 to 2016 — but this growth is nowhere near fast enough to make NZE homes mainstream. Today, they are a very niche offering, comprising roughly 0.01% of U.S. residential housing stock.To increase market penetration of NZE homes, we need to learn how first movers can successfully break into this new market and understand what barriers still need to be addressed to make NZE homes mainstream. Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) interviewed eight of the most successful NZE builders, responsible for 20% of the single-family NZE homes in the U.S., to understand what they know about NZE homes that the rest of the industry should learn. Here’s what we found out: By ALISA PETERSEN RELATED ARTICLES For example, builders of a home that requires more insulation could offset some of that incremental cost by downsizing its heating and cooling system. Additionally, a roof optimized for solar would have simple planes, as opposed to the typical gingerbread-house profile, lowering the roof cost and reducing the incremental cost to build an NZE home.Also, while most builders we spoke with didn’t build in California, they believed that California’s NZE code requirement, slated to take effect in 2020, will further drop the cost to build NZE homes since it will increase the market for NZE equipment, and manufacturers will need to offer cost-effective solutions there if they want to remain competitive.Although builders consistently told us the cost to own an NZE home pans out over the life of the mortgage, RMI wants to push that idea further. We know that NZE homes cost less than most people realize, but our research will provide clarity on roughly how much a well-designed NZE home costs to build and how long homeowners need to remain in their NZE homes to break even on their investments.RMI’s full report on NZE cost research will be released in July. Insight 4: Building NZE homes is less riskyNZE builders felt that their differentiated offering helped them during market downturns and reduced their risk when a new energy code was adopted. Since the homes they build will always be more efficient than the energy code, they don’t need to scramble to learn the new code or worry about rising construction costs. And differentiation reduces risk, too.“The greatest risk of all is to be just like any other builder. A highly differential, crisp product has been a real key to our survival through the recession,” said Gene Myers of Thrive Homes. Interestingly, these trends are consistent with those witnessed in the commercial NZE sector, as noted in RMI’s recently published guide detailing best practices for NZE commercial leases. Insight 2: Customer acquisition and market barriers should be addressedMany builders we spoke with shared a common customer-communication journey when they started offering NZE home construction. Initially, they tried to train home buyers to be building scientists, which was not a successful strategy. Now, they primarily talk about healthy and comfortable homes and more disposable income.One builder even calculated all the energy savings from residing in an NZE home for a young family, and equated it to paying for their young child’s college education. The NZE builders we spoke with all seemed to have their customer pitch down, but it was a learning process (because they were first movers) that resulted in a lot of trial and error.In addition to the customer acquisition barrier that most new NZE builders need to work through, there are market barriers to NZE homes that, if addressed, NZE builders believed could significantly increase adoption of NZE homes. Two of these market barriers are that energy costs aren’t currently factored into the mortgage underwriting process and that energy costs aren’t transparent to most home buyers.If NZE homes could get more favorable lending terms because they have lower debt-to-income ratios than identical homes that are standard efficiency, it could help NZE builders significantly. Additionally, if energy costs were more visible, such as incorporating Home Energy Rating System (HERS) scores into the multiple listing service (MLS), it would make energy a bigger part of the conversation when people are choosing a home and increase the market differentiation of an NZE home. Many organizations, including RMI, are actively working to break down these market barriers.center_img Insight 1: NZE homes can be economical todayLooking at a home in terms of total cost of ownership (mortgage, utilities, property taxes, etc.), an NZE home is more cost-effective than a standard-efficiency home today if designed correctly. For this to be true, builders need to take an integrated approach and look at the home holistically instead of taking an add-on approach. Insight 3: Changes in labor open new opportunitiesThe shortage in building-trade labor is a growing problem that hit an all-time high in 2017, with 64% of builders saying they experienced a subcontractor labor shortage. These shortages are leading to 74% of builders raising home prices, 72% of builders having difficulty completing a project on time, and 35% of builders turning down some projects.While this is a huge problem for the construction industry, it also creates a big opportunity for builders and subcontractors who take a different approach to home construction. Structural insulated panels (SIPs) and prefabricating building envelopes off-site are two ways to address this labor shortage because they require significantly less time on-site. These construction practices can also result in better-performing homes since these practices typically result in tighter and more insulated homes.Many NZE builders struggled with subcontractors that were stuck in their old ways and would charge a significant premium if they tried to do something new on a home. The significant labor growth required in this field creates an opportunity to leapfrog old building practices and establish a new business-as-usual in the workforce. For subcontractors, learning these new high-performance building practices is an opportunity to differentiate themselves with forward-looking builders. Most NZE builders we spoke with worked with the same subcontractors on all their projects because they went through the learning curve together. Alisa Petersen is a senior associate at the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Buildings team. ©2018 Rocky Mountain Institute. Published with permission. Originally posted on RMI Outlet. Using Energy Modeling to Get to ZeroA 107-Year-Old Net Positive Victorian RetrofitRevisiting Net Zero EnergyNet-Zero-Energy versus PassivhausTo Net Zero and BeyondZero-Energy Construction is ‘Set to Explode’last_img read more

Black Friday Vs. Cyber Monday: Toward A New Shopping Calendar

first_imgThe Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technology Related Posts What it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … christina ortiz Are Black Friday and Cyber Monday fighting a battle neither of them can win? It certainly looks that way as shopping landscape shifst both online and offline. A few holiday seasons down the road, both big-deal days may seem as quaint and dated as Sears Catalogs and keeping stores closed on Sundays. Enter Cyber Monday The term “Cyber Monday” was born during the holiday season of 2005, when the U.S. Trade Association’s National Retail Federation began to notice that shoppers who had just spent the entire Thanksgiving weekend barreling through crowded stores, were cyber-shopping when they sat down at their work computers on the following Monday. The federation’s site officially coined the term in 2005 and set up an eponymous site in 2006. Obviously, post-Thanksgiving online shopping at work had been going on long before the NRF put a name on it. But it’s grown into something bigger and more influential, not only changing the way Black Friday works, but also the way retail stores handle the holiday shopping season. Cyber Monday revealed the biggest weakness in the Black Friday concept: brick-and-mortar. What used to be an asset is now hurting this once powerful shopping day as harried workers rebel against early hours and ornery customers fighting over flat screens. Add on the fact that retailers are now expanding Black Friday into Thanksgiving evening, and you’ve got one messed up system. That’s why Black Friday is now projected to be only the second busiest shopping day of the year, behind Cyber Monday. Research from Compuware APM pegs total spending on Cyber Monday at $1.44 billion. But what about Cyber Monday? Does it even make sense?In the modern world, it doesn’t matter what day it is, wherever you are, you can shop the holiday sales from anywhere as long as you’re connected. Most shoppers now have decent Internet connections from home, and as Dan Rowinski pointed out last week, mobile shopping now accounts for about 12% of the purchases made on Cyber Monday. Obviously, you don’t need to be back at work to use your smartphone.Et Tu, Target? So what’s the future of Cyber Monday in a world where office computers are not required to buy online? Retailers are recognizing this and beating Cyber Monday to the punch by starting sales earlier – both online and in store. The sales calendars don’t matter any more, but that doesn’t mean retailers won’t try to leverage the ideas with sales and deals tied to no-longer-relevant concepts.Online-only sites like Amazon are morphing Cyber Monday into Cyber Week. They’re posting new deals every day leading up to Black Friday or during the week following Cyber Monday to help keep the shopping excitement going longer. Brent Shelton, a spokesman for FatWallet, told the Daily Finance Blog that we should be expecting events like “Cyber Monday II” on December 5. Whether it’s longer sales online or in store, the retail calendar we follow today won’t stand the test of time. And that’s probably a good thing compared to getting up at 4am to stand in line at Wal-Mart – or spending your work day on eBay.Image courtesy of Shuttershock.center_img Tags:#Amazon#e-commerce Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagementlast_img read more

NIA team in Bhopal to probe blast in train

first_imgA team of National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday reached Bhopal to probe the blast in a train, suspected to be a terror attack.The blast occurred near the Jabri railway station under Shajapur district, about 60 km from Bhopal.NIA officials would interact with the Madhya Pradesh police personnel and verify leads available with them to ascertain whether the explosion was a terror attack, official sources said.Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh on Tuesday said the initial investigation suggested that the blast was a terror attack and investigation was underway to unravel the conspiracy behind the incident.Ten people were injured, three of them seriously, in the blast on the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train.Madhya Pradesh Inspector General (Intelligence) Makrand Deoskar had said the blast was carried out “by planting an improvised explosive device (IED)”.last_img read more

Asian Games: India men make it to hockey finals after 12 years

first_imgIndia’s Gurbaj Singh (right) battles for the ball with South Korea’s Lee Nam-yong during the semifinal match at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. Photo: APThe Indian men’s hockey team has made it to the finals of the Asian Games after 12 years by defeating South Korea at Incheon on Tuesday.The sole deciding goal of the match came from Akashdeep Singh in the third quarter, which will now see India fighting it out for the gold medal game at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium.South Korea tried its best for the equalising goal but the solid Indian defense led by Ramandeep Singh didn’t allow any plausible chances.Akashdeep’s goal, which gave India the slim margin of 1-0, came in the dying minutes of the 3rd quarter.The road to the semi-final, however, hasn’t been too easy for the Indian men. The Sardar Singh-led side came back well after losing a tense third Pool B game against Pakistan 1-2 to put it across China 2-0 in their fourth and last league match to qualify for the last-four at the Seonhak hockey stadium.India, who last won a gold in the 1998 Bangkok edition under Dhanraj Pillay’s captaincy, are once again looking for a top finish and gain a direct entry into the 2016 Rio Olympics.last_img read more