Green Building Advisor's Scott Gibson has the lowdown on Pulte's new zero-energy project, under construction in the Bay Area. The company says that it is using the pilot program to find the most efficient path to net-zero construction, which will be required on all new houses in California in 2020.

The 2,343-square-foot Botanica dwelling boasts a HERS score of 0, an ultra-tight building envelope, a tankless water heater, and a whole-house ventilation system.

In an email response to questions from GBA, Brian Jamison, PulteGroup national procurement director, said that the company has been "testing and implementing innovative energy solutions and sustainable practices" in new houses around the country. Some of the houses have been very efficient, but the Botanica house will the first one designed specifically to hit the net-zero mark.

Other big builders also are working their way into the net-zero market. For example, KB Home, ranked at #8 in the country with 2014 sales of $2.4 billion, debuted a net-zero energy home in Los Angeles County in 2014. The 2,537-square-foot house in the city of Lancaster also uses no water for landscaping, making it what KB calls a "double zero house."

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