The North Pointe community features townhouses, duplexes, single-family homes, and custom homes. Each home has its own PV array and a geothermal heating and cooling system.
Passive House building philosophy guided this duplex’s design at a net-zero energy development at North Pointe, earning Emerald-level certification through the National Green Building Standard. Homes in this Frederick, Maryland, development are built with structural insulated panels (SIPs), and sprayed foam insulation seals and insulates the band boards (rim joists) and rafters to create a very tight envelope.
“Insulation is a big one,” says Mike Murphy, construction division president of Nexus EnergyHomes, the design/build firm behind the development. “We build to achieve one air exchange per hour or less, with the ultimate goal of 0.6.”
Nexus EnergyHomes won Builder of the Year in 2012 after a decision to embrace sustainable building. Murphy cites as inspiration a home designed and built by John Spears, architect with the Sustainable Design Group, that produced more electricity than it consumed. Studying a stack of electric bills from that project sealed his conversion.
“Month after month these bills were zero, -$5, -$10,” says Murphy. “I thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’”
Wanting to build a production model for the masses, the Nexus team took a systematic approach, breaking down each component of the typical American home and rethinking it. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) guided the process. Nexus broke ground on a new conceptual model home in January 2011 and opened it to the public in June, to much acclaim.&
Duplexes in the North Pointe community start at around $270,000, slightly more than a similarly sized conventionally built new home in the Washington, D.C., area. Clients can customize and upgrade features in their selected floor plan.
“You can get a well-appointed home for less than $300,000,” says Murphy. “Plus little to no electric bill.” The $15,000 in dollar-for-dollar tax credits sweetens the deal. In addition to the 30% federal tax credit available for geothermal and PV systems, the state of Maryland offers $1,000 grants for each system.
Each home at North Pointe comes with an iPad programmed with NexusVision software; the homeowner can track how much energy is produced and consumed down to the circuit-breaker level, and detect and adjust usage patterns from any computer with Internet access. Nexus EnergyHomes is planning another net-zero project for Frederick County. The 14-lot development will center around a common green space and feature solar street lamps; each home will include rainwater harvesting.
“The R&D never stops,” says Murphy. “Our projects are in line with the national agenda of making homes more energy efficient. It makes me think we can contribute to energy independence.”