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Can Net Zero Re-Energize the Homebuilding Industry?

A new development just west of Seattle is looking to upend the way homes are designed, built, sold, and lived in.


In Issaquah, Washington, just west of Seattle, there’s a 10-home development looking to upend the way homes are designed, built, sold, and lived in. Designed to radically reduce its environmental impacts, zHome is aiming to prove that homes that use zero net energy and 60 percent less water, emit net zero carbon emissions, have clean indoor air, and use only low-toxicity materials are not only possible but are scalable to mainstream home production. And zHome recognizes that the only truly sustainable housing option is multi-family, so in this development you’ll find no single-family residences.

For an industry that still thinks of “green” as futuristic, expensive, and not necessarily important to the consumer, what zHome is promising is highly unusual—and way overdue. So too is its impressively serious education program, designed to transform builders and buyers alike into eco-advocates. There’s even a field trip program for kids. Modern homes are about as innovative as the Model T, says Project Manager Brad Liljequist, "but to me the home is the lowest hanging fruit of potential environmental innovation ... zHome is having already having a catalyzing effect regionally, and we’re not even complete.”

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America's Oldest "Net Zero" House

This 110-year-old Victorian home in Ann Arbor is America's oldest and Michigan's first Net Zero home.

Kelly and Matt Grocoff bought a 110-year-old Victorian home in Ann Arbor, Michigan's Old West Side Historic District, and immediately set out to make it a "net zero" building, or one that generates at least as much energy as it uses, and—by their definition—"creates zero waste and will be a restorative part of our community."

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