Nexus EnergyHomes, a startup builder based in Anapolis, Md., expects to close 36 homes in 2012 and have another 80 under contract. Its sales are projected to exceed $12 million this year, as the company—which incorporated in 2009—is moving forward on its plans to build more than 400 homes over the next 18 to 24 months.
To say these plans are ambitious for a company that built only four homes last year would be quite an understatement. But Nexus, according to its president and CEO Paul Zanecki, has the financing in place (supplied by 20 investor/shareholders), has secured the finished lots for its growth in places such as Frederick and Centerville, Md.; Chestertown, Pa.; and Summerville, S.C.; and “already has substantial interest from buyers.”
Nexus is staking its claim to these and other markets with homes that it says can achieve close to net-zero energy consumption from the existing power grid. Nexus spent nearly three years working with the Department of Energy’s Building America program and the NAHB Research Center, to develop homes that are powered by geothermal heat pumps that operate in tandem with solar panels and a building shell made with structural insulated panels. An energy management system called NexusVision not only monitors the homeowner’s energy consumption, but also allows the owner to adjust that consumption via a proprietary, smart-grid-compliant electrical distribution panel. Users can also monitor their houses' energy consumption through their iPads and iPhones.
The houses, which are built to meet NAHB’s Emerald certification for energy-efficient construction, don’t require outside air-conditioning units. Filtered air circulates through these pressurized houses every 45 minutes. Nexus EnergyHomes won the NAHB Research Center 2012 EnergyValue Housing Award, and is nominated among 17 other builders for the 2012 Builder of the Year award and the People’s Choice EnergyValue Housing Award.
Zanecki, a former land-use attorney who helped craft Maryland’s smart-growth policies, is the first to admit “there’s really no such thing as net zero.” But he insists that Nexus’ houses help owners get as close to net-zero as possible by giving them more precise information about their energy consumption and the means to alter it. Nexus bases its calculations of its homes’ energy efficiency on how much their geo-solar systems reduce the electricity costs to power HVAC systems, appliances, lighting, and peripherals such as computers over a rolling 12-month period. The knock against net-zero-energy homes has been that their energy-saving features can add anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 to the selling price of the house. Nexus’ homes, which range from 1,300 square feet to 5,000 square feet, are priced from $264,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the neighborhood. Cost savings, Zanecki explains, come from the 30% energy tax credit owners earn by having a geo-solar system installed, and longer-term reductions in their electric bills.
A year ago, Nexus raised the first $200,000 of a $1.5 million equity offering it will eventually use to expand its operations. Zanecki believes that the company is already “positively positioned” in the Mid-Atlantic, and will start making its move on other markets along the Eastern Seaboard in the next few years. “We can supply homes in markets with various humidities and climates,” he says.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.