PEARL Homes founder and president Marshall Gobuty has aimed to push boundaries on sustainability and green building through all his company’s communities—ranging from single-family homes to multifamily and active adult. In Cortez, Florida, Gobuty, with the cooperation of the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), has been working to develop Hunters Point PEARL Homes & Marina, an innovative 86-home community that is solar powered and net-zero plus.

BUILDER has been following the community’s progress since 2018 and wanted to learn more about what’s happening at Hunters Point, including the homes’ latest HERS scores as phase one nears completion this year.

PEARL Homes founder and president Marshall Gobuty.
PEARL Homes PEARL Homes founder and president Marshall Gobuty.

BUILDER: How has Hunters Point evolved since its planning stages?

Gobuty: We broke ground at Hunters Point in May 2021. Vertical construction on Hunters Point began after about six months of infrastructure implementation. All three phases of the community are slated to be completed in 2025. This development represents a new era of self-reliance, with 86 net-zero-plus, solar-powered homes, with each home having its own sonnen home battery system, and 49 boat slips on an 18-acre property.

Hunters Point PEARL Homes & Marina is a testament to the human spirit, our ingenuity, and our unwavering commitment to innovation and progress. If I had a dollar for everyone that came in here and said we can’t do this, that’s what the people who have been developing sustainability plans for the last 30 years kept telling me. Now when we meet, they are proud, confident, and showcase our homes as often as possible. As much as this is about how our homes perform, the real story is about the people who have been building the plans for homes like ours for years.

The foundation of research and design for the development process of Hunters Point was done in cooperation with the FSEC. That work started in 2018. Before the final Hunters Point home was developed, there were highly conceptual approaches and the completion of a case study house that allowed PEARL Homes to test and implement the acquired knowledge of green building practices. These factors, along with PEARL Homes' 18 months of research in our research and development center, ultimately led to the success of developing net-zero-scale residential homes.

The Hunters Point case study home, which was actually the PEARL Concept Home created at the development center, was recognized at the USGBC Greenbuild event in Chicago in 2019 as the first LEED Zero home in the world.

BUILDER: How many homes are currently completed and under construction?

Gobuty: Fourteen homes are already occupied with another 22 under various stages of construction. We expect to continue to build at a pace that we can maintain and grow into the future. Looking at this from a developer’s perspective, we seem to have found a stable balance of labor and materials, with the downside being our number of starts is limited at this time.

BUILDER: In terms of energy, what numbers (HERS ratings) have been achieved so far for the completed homes?

Gobuty: Obviously many solar-powered homes are designed to deliver energy back to the grid. What PEARL does—creating sustainable, net-zero and energy-positive, modern-designed smart homes on a large scale—is unheard of. Our Hunters Point homes have the highest LEED certification available, Platinum.

We recently submitted our HERS test scores, based on home performance data from April, May, and June, and are excited to report that the homes boast a HERS rating of between -10 and -13, or on average, generate 35% more power than they consume.

There’s also a new study we conducted with FSEC that shows how these homes can generate a net positive percentage between 20% to 57%. Fifty-seven percent is unprecedented, meaning each home exported 8,000-kilowatt hour (kWh) back to the grid. In context, 8,000 kWh can power an average home’s total electricity use for 266 days.

Taking that one step further, in the event of a catastrophic storm, the local power grid is likely to fail, and a vast majority of homeowners in Florida will face temporary outages of a few hours to days or even weeks. Residents at Hunters Point will have peace of mind knowing that their homes are equipped with an intelligent backup power system providing clean, carbon-neutral energy.

By being net-zero-plus and having a HERS rating of -13, PEARL Homes are annually reducing a home’s carbon emissions by 8 tons per year, and this is just the beginning. The stats show that the combined reduction in carbon emissions from the completed community would be equivalent to reforesting 16 acres annually.

BUILDER: What are some lessons PEARL Homes has learned during Hunters Point’s development?

Gobuty: The biggest lesson is 'depend and live by your schedule,' due to the massive increase in material costs and the scarcity of labor—which all happened at one time, plus two category 5 hurricanes. The worst of perfect storms. Also, design right. Select the right materials. Look at things differently, and be willing to build the best. Don’t settle for just what is to code, or standard. Do better, and you’ll be better.

Critical for PEARL was building a core team that is multifaceted, and here we are to see the sunshine and generate power to a home that is built with resiliency, the kind of home that has not been discussed often enough.

Additionally, as we talked about previously, PEARL designed and developed its home prototype in conjunction with the FSEC. Insights were discovered around maximizing the integration of solar energy with sonnen batteries, vis-à-vis PEARL’s own innovative design and construction approach that yielded additional energy and thermal efficiencies.