Walnut Farm Community, Williamsburg, VA.
Photo by Full Scale Productions Walnut Farm Community, Williamsburg, VA.

Inviting the region’s top dignitaries, Department of Energy executives and Realtors to tour the grand opening of a model home on the year’s hottest day may not be the smartest idea. What chance does the builder have of wowing influential market makers when the walk-through is a steam bath?

Plenty, actually. Because this house interior stayed within two degrees of the 70-degree set point in spite of constantly opening doors. Just as important, the dignitaries and guests experienced a level of whole-home air quality that might be expected from a home many times this one’s upper $300s price point.

This was all thanks to a single 2-ton variable speed zoned HVAC system. No 3-ton. No need to over-spec tonnage to keep owners happy on extreme temperature days. “I can spec a multi-stage, two-ton HVAC system for layouts up to 3,000 square feet. I have an independent Manual J calculation that proves it,” explains Jay Epstein, the award-winning home builder behind Walnut Farm, Virginia’s first zero energy-ready home community.

Welcome to building science in action. Sophisticated mechanical strategies once reserved for commercial construction now offer profit-minded homebuilders like Epstein a powerful selling edge.

Walnut Farm Community, Williamsburg, VA
Walnut Farm Community, Williamsburg, VA

Exciting Times
For years, evolving code and building practice have resulted in ever-tighter homes, says David Maruna, an executive at Ingersoll Rand, parent company to Trane, a historic HVAC product manufacturer. Unfortunately, best practice for designing HVAC solutions hasn’t kept up with exterior envelope construction. That lack of coordination often results in a needlessly costly, let’s-overspec-just-to-be-on-the-safe-side HVAC system which can lead to pre-mature failures, as well as comfort issues, which result in costly call-backs for builders.

“You expect to see advanced mechanicals and design features in high-end luxury homes. Today we’re seeing it in sub-$400,000 homes. This is definitely a tipping point for the high performance housing industry,” Maruna, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, explains.

Why Not Net-Zero Ready?
The hitch: Just how do you bring those proven ideas to work for affordable home builders? A growing circle of home builders have found a way, says Maruna. “Home builders in Minneapolis, Austin, Texas, Williamsburg, Va. and other regions now engage experts in manual J load calculations and the coordination of products, manufacturers, and installers. Who says a home builder can’t offer healthy, net-zero ready homes at popular prices?”

Maruna says his company will soon offer home builders a consultative service called Tranquility by Trane. Tranquility presents builders with scaled whole-home approach to build a healthier, high-performance home affordably. The service will include load calculations, coordinating with other building envelope manufacturers, and facilitating relationships with installers, testers and raters without the price tag expected in a consultative relationship.

“Tranquility is an opportunity for local, regional, and national home builders to leapfrog competitors with a unique whole-house solution that delivers a healthier, high-performing home,” Maruna says.

How high performance? Home builder Epstein promises energy bills that average just $1.50 a day.

To learn how Tranquility by Trane helps differentiate your brand with whole-home comfort, wellness, and affordability, visit trane.com/builders.