Since 2009, Connecticut utilities Eversource and United Illuminating have provided a stage for builders to compete and showcase their newly-constructed super energy-efficient homes through Energize Connecticut’s Zero Energy Challenge(ZEC).
The Challenge has kick-started a new era of home building in Connecticut. Builders across the state have embraced the U.S. Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready standards and employed various building strategies such as Passive House building principals to meet these standards. Their devotion to transforming the state’s housing market has helped Connecticut earn a spot on Net-Zero Energy Coalition’s “Top 10 Zero Energy States and Provinces in the United States and Ca...” list. Additionally, small Connecticut towns outrank major cities like Los Angeles for number of zero-energy homes.
These accomplishments have helped increase zero-energy construction awareness, and allowed Connecticut builders, such as Celebration Green Design & Build, Lehto Design/Build, Brookside Development and many others to flourish and continue to push the boundaries of energy-efficient residential construction, demonstrated by their award-winning 2016 ZEC entries.
The Challenge’s 2016 overall winner, the Heinrich’s Waystone Farm, aimed to meet some specific goals, including:
To achieve these goals, Celebration Green Design & Build utilized the Passive Home building principals to maximize the home’s energy efficiency and gave special considerations to the home’s function as the farm’s homestead during the design process. The result was a home with:
Nick Lehto of Lehto Design/Build, a yearly ZEC contestant and experienced zero energy home builder, had specific budget parameters to consider when designing and developing Jeff and Sandy Alexander’s modern farmhouse. Together, they explored ways to creatively incorporate energy-efficiency and sustainable solutions into the home’s design, such as:
Their combined innovative efforts helped achieve a 31 HERS rating before renewables, a 4 HERS rating with renewables, and win the Challenge’s Lowest HERS Index without Renewables category.
While most Connecticut zero energy builders focus on custom-home design and building, Brookside Development is tackling the general housing market and creating demand for zero-energy residential construction with its Singer Village development – Connecticut’s first zero energy ready subdivision.
Their challenge: design and construct homes that are affordable enough to compete with the local housing market. Once again, Brookside met that challenge with its most recent home winning the ZEC’s “Most Affordable” category. The developer incorporated into the home:
Additionally with energy-efficiency building information more accessible and an increase in awareness, homeowners are educating themselves on zero-energy construction and overseeing their home’s construction. While ZEC has occasionally had homeowners or novice contractors win in the past, the 2016 Challenge had two amateur general contractors enter the contest and win! Check out our next article for information on their builds.
This article is part of a series on Energize Connecticut's Zero Energy Challenge. To read the first blog and to learn more about this challenge, click here.