From web-based displays that track energy usage in real time, to the downsizing of the American home, here are the key trends that will affect the way we build new homes in 2010.
1) “Rightsizing” of homes. A larger home no longer translates into greater equity. Given that the forecast for home valuation remains conservative, that energy prices are expected to rise over time, and the US Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates mid-year, homeowners will likely feel more comfortable building smaller homes and smaller add-ons.
2) Off-Grid Ready buildings – also known as Net Zero Buildings. An off-grid ready building stores more water and generates more energy than it uses over the course of a year, as a result of relatively small size, extreme efficiencies and onsite renewable sources. While the Architecture 2030 Challenge sets forth energy net zero as the goal for all new buildings by 2030, the industry has not yet got its head around water and waste. The United States, EPA finalised the voluntary WaterSense specification for new homes in December of 2009, which reduces water use by about 20 percent compared to a conventional new home.
3) Eco-districts. Portland, Oregon, is already on the bandwagon with this one, encouraging the creation of greener communities where residents have access to most services and supplies within walking or biking distance. The creation of walkable, low-impact communities in the suburban setting is also gaining steam.
4) Home Energy monitor and display. While utilities will continue to make upgrades to the grid for more effective generation, storage and distribution of power, the big news is in the home. The development of custom and web-based display panels that show real-time home energy use, and even real-time energy use broken out by individual appliance, will go a long way towards helping change homeowners’ energy behavior and drive energy conservation.
5) Energy labelling for homes and office buildings. The advent of more accurate energy rating systems for homes and office spaces – similar to the miles-per-gallon sticker on your car – has caught the attention of energy agencies and legislators around the country. Not only can it make a building-to-building or home-to-home comparison easier, but a publicly available score on the multiple listing service could galvanise owners to make needed energy improvements while adding value to their building.
6) Building information modeling (BIM) software. With buildings contributing roughly half the carbon emissions in the environment, CAD software for building design has produced new add-on tools with increasingly accurate algorithms for energy modelling as well as embedded energy properties for many materials and features. This will prove instrumental in predicting building performance. BIM developers will soon be offering more affordable packages aimed at smaller firms and individual builders.
7) Financial community buy-in to green building. Lenders and insurers have come to see green homes and buildings as better for their bottom line and are working to get new reduced-rate loan products, insurance packages, and metrics into place. Lenders and insurers are realising green home and building owners are more responsible, place higher value on maintenance and lower operating costs, and are less likely to default.