Healthy Homes Blog

Stop Resisting and Start Assisting, Join the Green Movement Today and Buy Your Home of the Future!!

Zero Energy Ready Homes offer a superior homeowner experience. These homes live better, work better, and last longer because the Zero Energy Ready Home program requirements combine the best of building science with the latest technologies and systems, innovative building practices, and risk management solutions to offer you complete peace of mind.  

Every certified Zero Energy Ready Home:

  • provides $10,000s of utility bill savings over the life of a mortgage
  • takes comfy and cozy to whole new level
  • breathes better with a comprehensive package of indoor air quality features
  • includes the peace-of-mind that comes from complete top-to-bottom water protection
  • works and lasts better with ENERGY STAR® products throughout the home
  • ensures quality with independent verification, testing, and diagnostics
  • is future ready with construction that meets and exceeds future codes

IT’S NEVER BEEN SO EASY TO BUILD HEALTHY, HIGH PERFORMANCE HOMES

Differentiate your homes with whole-home wellness, comfort, and affordability.

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.

WHOLE-HOME WELLNESS AND COMFORT ON $1.50 A DAY

This Virginia home builder leapfrogs competitors with next-gen HVAC technology.

Brought to you by Trane

Home builder Jay Epstein waited nearly four decades for his DARST moment.

“DARST,” an acronym Epstein coined years ago for his children, stands for Dreams and Reality Sometimes Touch. The acronym is now on dramatic display at Walnut Farm, a new community of 75 single-family homes now under construction by his company in Williamsburg, Va. The development is the state’s first zero-energy ready home community.

It may also be the first community in America that must be experienced to be believed.

$1.50/Day

Start with daylight. “It’s sunny outside and you look out towards the window. You notice the expected dust particles are missing. The sunbeam is clear and dust-free,” explains Epstein, founder and president of Health E Community Enterprises. It’s just the first of many subtle sustainability and wellness wonders incorporated into Walnut Farm homes.

There is one marvel no one will overlook: The utility bill is guaranteed to average out at just $1.50 a day over the course of a year. Epstein knows most home buyers don’t geek-out over sustainability, though. To the contrary, “They’re not interested in a HERS or SEER rating or R- or U-values. That’s numbers overdose. They relate to personal experience,” Epstein says.

9.5% Builder Bonus

A recent North Carolina study determined high-performance homes now command a 9.5 percent dollar dividend over other new homes. “A builder always looks at the bottom line using proven products without warranty issues,” he says.

Epstein can pinpoint nearly to the day when the gloves came off for high-performance home builders. “The playing field didn’t level until the government removed the 30 percent geothermal tax credit. That’s when everyone rushed into the market with multistage HVAC compressors. ERVs (energy recover ventilators) got smarter too. We now have the technology to build the home of the future today,” he says.

High Value, High Performance

At Walnut Farm, that future-is-now technology includes:

  • Advanced framing techniques, cellulose insulation, two-by-six wall framing, thermal break sheathing panels
  • Solar-ready construction with pre-wiring, enhanced roof trusses, and dedicated roof area
  • Building information modeling (BIM) pre-planned construction
  • Next-generation HVAC systems powered by groundbreaking Tranquility by Trane technology

Epstein singles out Trane for special recognition because “… the product is that good.” Take the air handler, for example. “Before Trane, I had to control noise with cellulose. Now the unit is naturally quiet. The compressor outside is quiet too. Conversations by the air compressor aren’t impaired. Little things like that make a huge difference,” Epstein says.

DARST Magic

As for building code, “I don’t worry about it,” Epstein says. “The homes we build are way above current code. I build toward what I know should be the 2025 code.”

Interestingly, that forward thinking has little impact on price – Walnut Farm starts in the high $300s, competitive for the market.

To demonstrate the community’s comfort and wellness edge, Epstein plans to open one of his model homes for overnight stays. “The house is cleaner. The air is crisper, clearer. There are no comfort or breathing issues. Customers need to experience it for themselves.”

“Yes, dreams and reality not only touch, they come true,” Epstein says.