Over the last few years, studies have shown that, along with aging-in-place design and active-lifestyle amenities, Baby Boomers also want more energy efficient features in their homes.
In Gettysburg, Pa., custom builder High Performance Homes is seeking to fill that demand by offering net-zero homes at The Links at Gettysburg, a community boasting a golf course, club houses, a restaurant, a fitness center complete with a sauna and pool, walking trails, and tennis, bocce, and basketball courts. Though the community does not have age restrictions, residents and buyers are typically semi-retired or retired.
High Performance Homes started at The Links in April and has two model homes in the works, with the first opening for tours in early November. So far, 105 homes have been built in the community by Pennsylvania-based Keystone Custom Homes and Maryland-based Wormald Homes. High Performance Homes is the only one in the community building net-zero homes and has the ability to build on 300 lots at The Links.
It can be a tough sell: High Performance Homes are roughly 7 percent more expensive than other homes in the Gettysburg area. But president Kiere DeGrandchamp claims his homes actually cost less when homeowners account for federal tax rebates and savings from not paying a monthly electric bill, which often averages $500 in the Gettysburg area in the winter. He predicts the homes will generate as much energy as they use, for an energy bill of zero, give or take $10
The elimination of an electric bill alone appeals to The Links’ semi-retired and retired demographic, whose main concerns often center on financial security, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. To further woo this group, DeGrandchamp is also including aging-in-place design with curbless showers, wider hallways and doorways, and convertible aspects that meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Another enticement for older buyers is that lawn cutting and snow shoveling is provided by the community, and travel is often by golf cart.
Plus, they’re all smart homes. All of the High Performance Homes at The Links come with features that can be controlled through a smart phone or tablet such as light control, door control, and television control. Homes are also equipped with sensors that know when a car is in the garage and will expel carbon dioxide before it gets into the home, as well as sensors that alert owners when an air filter needs changing.
DeGrandchamp says the starting point for his net-zero homes is creating a thermal envelope like that of a refrigerator.
“You close up the refrigerator and it doesn’t really take an awful lot of energy to keep it cold,” says DeGrandchamp. “That’s in principle what I do. I seal the house up.”
To ensure a sealed house, High Performance Homes relies on Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) for walls, R50 insulation for the roof, and mastic sealing for duct work.
To produce the home's energy, High Performance Homes specs Dow Solar’s POWERHOUSE Solar Shingles, which provide a more aesthetically pleasing look compared to solar panels. It also includes geothermal heating and cooling. Once the house is sealed up, High Performance Homes adds in a Nautic Air air purification system to rid the house of any trapped allergens, dander, or VOCs.
With all of these elements, DeGrandchamp expects his homes to receive a HERS rating between 20 to 25. All homes are also built to meet the requirements of the National Green Building Standard and are certified and verified at the highest certification levels available in the NGBS.
In terms of costs, DeGrandchamp says it’s a
balancing act. He didn’t aim for a Passive House that can require expensive
features. A net-zero home is more affordable and attainable for American
homeowners, and according to DeGrandchamp, mean house prices in Gettysburg work
well within the company’s pro forma.